Oprah: You may be called, but you can make a lot more money in another career. In this country, we say we value education but we obviously don't.
Laura: We don't pay teachers enough.
Oprah: How will we change that?
Laura: That's the hard part, for sure—but we have to change that. We need everyone to realize how important teaching is. Teachers are paid with public money—that's the way it is—and some cities have plenty of money, while other cities do not. I'll also continue with the issues I worked on in Texas—like preparing children to start school. I'm sure you've done some shows on education, and—
Oprah: I've done a show on just about everything! On one show, I even brought back my favorite teacher, Mrs. Duncan. Who was your favorite teacher?
Laura: Mrs. Gnagy. She came to the president's inauguration and sat in the front row. When I introduced her as my second-grade teacher, the whole crowd went, "Ahhhh."
Oprah: That's because everybody has a favorite teacher.
Laura: I know—and we all have a story of how a teacher affected us.
Oprah: What exactly do you want to accomplish over the next four years?
Laura: Specifically, I want to make changes in early childhood education. The president has talked about adding a reading curriculum to Head Start. If such a curriculum is put in place, children all over the country who are entering kindergarten would have the same advantage as those whose mothers read to them every day.
Oprah: Didn't you read with your girls?
Laura: Yes, and my mother did with me. If you've been read to, you start school with a great vocabulary. The vocabulary that's in books is so much bigger than that of spoken language.
Oprah: If we could just get every parent to read to their children—that would be huge. I am where I am today because I was read to as a child. Reading was my escape.
Laura: That's why it's so great that you've done the book club. Aren't you shocked at how successful it has been?
Oprah: Yes, I'm shocked! As the newest first lady, do you feel any pressure to come up with a project that's all yours?
Laura: I wouldn't call it pressure as much as increased scrutiny.
We Hear You!