Laura Bush visits San Antonio, encourages kids to go outdoors

Environmental Literacy Summit features former first lady on teaching children to appreciate the outdoors


Former First Lady Laura Bush has always been an advocate of literacy, and even used her position in the White House to launch a campaign to promote it.

Today, she's still advocating for it, but has embraced the outdoors in her message as the founder of "Taking Care of Texas," a nonprofit group that encourages Americans to spend time outdoors and learn the benefits of economics and conservation.

"We know from research -- as well as anecdotally -- that nature can soothe and restore people and there is a lot of research that says that most children stay indoors most of the time either, watching television or playing video games," Bush explained to a roomful of environmental educators at the Natural Resource/Environmental Literacy Summit in San Antonio on Friday.

The Midland native told of her background as the daughter of a naturalist, who nightly would throw a blanket on the ground in the backyard so that the young Laura Bush could watch the sky and the constellations.

She became tearful while telling the crowd of her wishes to keep that tradition going with her daughters and grandchildren.

"As a soon-to-be-grandmother, I like to imagine lying on a blanket with my grandchild ... to look at the stars, and that is my hope for every Texas child, that he or she comes to know the joys of the natural world," she said.

Bush acknowledged that in today's world, with both parents working and safety issues outside, that it can be difficult to allow kids unfettered out of doors.

She advocates that children be supervised daily, however, even if for only a short time.

"You get Vitamin D, which is one component of strong bone health from sunshine, so it's important for children to be outside for 15 minutes a day," she said.

She said summer vacations exploring the national parks or the Gulf of Mexico with the whole family is also a way to begin showing children ways to enjoy and learn to respect the natural world.

In keeping with the Taking Care of Texas goals, the George W. Bush Presidential Center, which is under construction in Dallas, will feature a 14-acre native prairie landscape, as well as other features that show harmony in nature.

For more information on the organization, visit takingcareoftexas.org.

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