Spread the Word Initiative Receives National Honor- Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
For Immediate Release
Monday, September 11, 2000
Contact:John Birtwell or Shawn Feddeman - (617) 727-2759

Spread the Word Initiative Receives National Honor

SOMERVILLE - Governor Paul Cellucci today announced a $300,000 windfall for the EM>Spread the Word program, the state's literacy initiative that provides books to elementary school-aged children who have few books at home. Cellucci also announced that the Massachusetts Spread the Word program recently won the Council of State Governments' 2000 Innovations Award.

"Through Spread the Word, we have placed thousands of books in the hands of children," said Cellucci. "These new funds will allow us to give thousands of more books to the children who need them the most. When you open a book, you open your mind. You learn new words, new places and you develop new ideas that are all your own."

Cellucci noted that Attorney General Tom Reilly and 44 other attorneys general reached a settlement last year with toy retailers and manufacturers. The $300,000 Massachusetts received will go directly to Spread the Word for the purchase of 100,000 brand new books to help impart the love of reading on students who are not fortunate enough to have books at home. To kick the program off for the school year and celebrate the donation, Cellucci delivered 1,700 books to 340 students at East Somerville Community School in the first, second and third grades. He encouraged the children to bring home the five new books they received today to share with parents and siblings.

Spread the Word was initiated in 1995 by Cellucci and his wife Jan, who is a librarian, to collect books from children and families who have extra books at home and distribute them to children who have few books at home. Since its inception, the program has given half a million books to more than 100,000 children across the Commonwealth. The recipient schools are chosen based on data from the 1999 Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) survey of fourth graders who were asked about the number of books they owned at home. Each year, the state gives 12,000 students in kindergarten through third grade a total of 60,000 books.

"I am pleased that my office settled this important action against Toys 'R' Us and the toy manufacturers," said Reilly. "The funds we obtained as part of the settlement will allow the Department of Education's Spread the Word program to expand, and for the first time, provide new books to underprivileged children across Massachusetts. Getting books into the hands of young children is essential to the development of their reading and language skills. What better way to use the proceeds of the settlement than to invest in the future of our children."

"We are delighted to have the Governor's Spread the Word program receive such great recognition and extra funding so that we can continue the remarkable effort that has provided nearly 500,000 books to 100,000 of our neediest school children," said Commissioner of Education David P. Driscoll. "This is truly a historic day for a most special program."

Cellucci also announced that the state was notified last month that Spread the Word was one of only eight recipients of the prestigious Council of State Governments' 2000 Innovations Award. The award was designed to promote innovative and exemplary state programs and to share those best practices with other states. At the annual Council of State Government meetings in December, the winning initiatives will be showcased during an exhibit.

Governor Cellucci delivered the Commonwealth's first ever State of Education Address last week to renew the Administration's commitment to improving education and to the MCAS test. During the speech, he called for an increase commitment to literacy programs such as Spread the Word.

Last Updated: September 11, 2000

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