Here’s what former First Lady Barbara Bush said she wanted to honor her memory

First Lady Barbara Bush, sporting her signature pearls, cuddling with a trio of little girls at fete for the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy in 1989.
Cynthia Johnson | The LIFE Images Collection | Getty Images

Former First Lady Barbara Bush, who decided not to seek further medical treatment after reports of her failing health, has died at age 92. And, according to the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, which she founded with the goal of boosting reading skills among disadvantaged Americans, she had something in mind for those wishing to honor her memory: continued support for the foundation's mission of supporting education.

"In lieu of flowers, Mrs. Bush requested that those wishing to honor her memory do so through contributions," notes a press release on the foundation's website. She "believed that every man, woman and child should have the opportunity to secure a better life through literacy."

As such, the foundation "remains committed to Mrs. Bush's vision, providing innovative programs and strategies aimed to expand access to education for all Americans."

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A staggering 36 million adults in the U.S. have low literacy skills. One in four adults can't read above a fifth-grade level, and "students who do not read proficiently by the third grade are four times more likely to leave high school without a diploma," according to the foundation.

The Pew Research Center reports that other certain key demographic traits correlate with non-book reading, too, including income: Adults with annual household incomes of $30,000 or less are about three times as likely as the most affluent adults to be non-book readers.

Statistics like these are what drove Mrs. Bush to create the foundation in 1989, which she hoped could help solve critical challenges in the United States and help improve "social and economic mobility, quality of life and global competitiveness," according to the release.

The foundation has raised $110 million to support family literacy programs across the country since its inception, and it continues to provide access to family literacy programs and educational opportunities for young children and their parents.

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The website notes that 46 percent of preschoolers getting help were at risk for developmental delays but by the end of a year of involvement that number dropped to 14 percent.

Elementary students half a year behind in reading advanced their reading skills by one grade level. Parents, on average, improved their skills by two grade levels in one year.

Mrs. Bush "believed in the power of literacy to strengthen families and our nation, now and for generations to come," said Chris Frangione, foundation's interim chief executive officer. "Her passion for big ideas will live on, continuing to inspire us as we work toward literacy for all."

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