March 2, 1995 in Nation/World

Kids Offered Money For Reading Gingrich Hands Out Books, Money From Private Charity

Associated Press

At an innercity school so poor its leaky roof has damaged the few books in the library, House Speaker Newt Gingrich urged children to read Wednesday by promising them $2 for every book they finish.

Handing out hundreds of new books donated by a private charity, the speaker told children at Lucy Ellen Moten Elementary he wants them “to grow up and make a good living, so you can come back and do good things for this school.

“But to do that, you have to be able to read,” Gingrich told the kids.

The youngsters - who live just outside the shadow of the Capitol but in a neighborhood so crimeridden many fear walking to the local library - clapped at his words.

Erick Turner, 12, says he often reads in school. But, he admitted with a grin, it’s awfully hard to find him at home with a book. “Just tired of reading, I guess,” the boy said.

The $2 incentive could change his mind. “I’ll try it. Sure I will. I want the money.”

Teachers at the school were all for trying, too. “You’ve got to get the kids motivated, that’s the thing,” said teacher Carolyn Dallas. Any money is welcome to teachers who sometimes feel “we’re the first ones to get our money cut.”

Education Secretary Richard Riley said this week that although he supports Gingrich’s reading program, private charity should only “supplement” the money the government sends to schools, and not replace it.

A group of Democrats who ate lunch with children at Moten just hours before Gingrich arrived accused the speaker for hypocrisy, saying he was giving children books with one hand while cutting the money available to their school with the other.

“I’m all in favor of raising money from the private sector to get children to read,” said Rep. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. “But this does not relieve us from our obligation to feed hungry children.”

In nearby Arlington, Va., first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton joined a first-grade lunch crowd at Long Branch Elementary School to protest the GOP efforts.

© Copyright 1995 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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