This is a partial transcript from "On the Record," April 19, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: Like the current first lady, former first lady Barbara Bush is worried about rising illiteracy in America and she's doing something about it.

Former first lady Barbara Bush sat down with us on Tuesday to talk about what she is doing to promote literacy.


VAN SUSTEREN: Nice to see you Mrs. Bush.

BARBARA BUSH, FORMER FIRST LADY: Thank you very much, nice to see you.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, you have a big event Thursday here in Houston. What is it?

BUSH: That's right. We have our celebration of reading in Houston and we have six very important authors coming to read and we stressed to them ten minutes only. But they raise almost well over $1.5 million in one night. It's a big night and very exciting for us and the money goes to the Chuck Norris is going to be there Thursday.

BUSH: Chuck Norris is going to be there.

VAN SUSTEREN: He's going to read from his book?

BUSH: He's going to read from his book and Reba is going to be there.

VAN SUSTEREN: Reba McIntyre?

BUSH: Yes. And we have Doris Kearns Goodman, just very exciting. She's just won the Pulitzer Prize I think maybe and for her new book and we have Anita Shreve who has just written a wonderful book.

And then we have Jim Nance said you will love these boys Tiki and Ronde Barber who are the two football players who have written a children's book so that's sort of appropriate because that's sort of what we're about.

VAN SUSTEREN: Who's going to be the biggest offender of this 10-minute rule, do you think anybody on Thursday?

BUSH: I don't know.

VAN SUSTEREN: Chuck Norris used to do it a little bit with me.

BUSH: No, he'll behave.

VAN SUSTEREN: He'll behave?

BUSH: He'll behave.

VAN SUSTEREN: What makes you think that?

BUSH: Because he's scared to death of me.

VAN SUSTEREN: I think you're right.

BUSH: No, he'll behave.

VAN SUSTEREN: In terms of your program the money you're going to raise Thursday night where does it go? How does it work?

BUSH: Well there are ten grants — well, actually it goes into the foundation. We've given away almost $17 million to over 500 literacy programs and it's a complicated grant situation firstly where they have to prove that they have so many clients that they have so many volunteers in the program.

And, I think actually some of our money now goes to start programs where there's a huge need but we have programs. We support the Maine literacy program, which is done through the Maine State Education Bureau. We support Florida, which the great governor of Florida has a program.

VAN SUSTEREN: I think you know him, don't you?

BUSH: I do know him and I love him very much and he has a program and it's a volunteer program now. And we support Maryland where the beautiful Dorothy Koch, Dorothy Bush Koch, has started.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know her too?

BUSH: Yes, I know her too. It's her second year and she's giving out grants in Maryland. And then we have a national program that people apply for and we have a state program too because most of our money is raised in Texas. So, half of our money from the Houston and the Dallas celebrations of reading go to Texas.

VAN SUSTEREN: How did we get into the situation where at least it appears that the literacy problem is growing?

BUSH: Well, I think, I'm no authority on that but I would suspect there are quite a few reasons. I would suspect that our immigration problem is big and we get a lot of people coming to our country who can't read in their own language much less ours so that's a big job we have.

And then I think some of our schools are overcrowded and I don't think we pay our teachers enough. And just I think the breakup of the American family has a huge amount to do with it. I mean parents are the first teachers. You know sit with your arm around a little kid and read. It not only teaches them to read but it keeps the family strong.

VAN SUSTEREN: I read an article in Time magazine, a cover story recently that there's something like a 30 percent drop out rate.

BUSH: That's terrible but if they had a good strong family and a good example set for them and teachers who could take time there's a lot of reasons. I'm a great believer that the most important years are the sort of early years but the preschool years and then into the first and second grades. If you get a good base in the first and second grade and you can read, you can do anything.


VAN SUSTEREN: We will have more of our interview with Barbara Bush after the break.


VAN SUSTEREN: Mrs. Bush has been all over the world. She is the loyal wife to a former president and a loving mother to a president and a governor. The former first lady wrote a memoir about her exciting life and we asked her about it.


VAN SUSTEREN: In your book, you're very funny. Your book is funny.

BUSH: Funny looking.

VAN SUSTEREN: No. No but you're very, I mean even the book that you wrote it's very clever. You can tell that you like the word. You like words. You know you're funny in the book.

BUSH: Well, I don't want people to be bored and actually living with George Bush, he is funny.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is he funnier than you are?

BUSH: Well, he's funny acting.


BUSH: Like let's see, well I'm not going to say anything bad about him. He probably can hear me, but he's just funny. He does funny things, I mean when you least expect it.

VAN SUSTEREN: It's interesting in the book that you talk about is that you go back to that dance in 1941 that Christmas dance when you first saw him. What was it about him?

BUSH: He was the best looking thing I ever laid my eyes on. He really was. And, he immediately he had asked a boy that I'd grown up with if he'd introduce us and they immediately played a waltz, which was my best thing ever happened to me in my life because he can't waltz. So, he said "Do you mind if we sit down?" And that's how it all started.

VAN SUSTEREN: Love at first sight?

BUSH: No but darn close.


BUSH: Yes but, you know, when we'd get home at night from a party my mother would ask me everything and my father would say "Ask her in the morning." Well she was smart enough to know that you told at night. In the morning you just said good or bad maybe. But I told her that I'd met this wonderful boy named Poppy Bush and he's so nice from Greenwich.

When I woke up my mother, who should have been in the CIA or FBI, knew everything about his family. I mean she just knew everything, so it almost ruined it for me.

VAN SUSTEREN: Too bad she didn't have the Internet.

BUSH: That's right. Oh, gosh.

VAN SUSTEREN: Because she could do all the research.

BUSH: Thank God she didn't.

VAN SUSTEREN: In reading the other book that you wrote, I'm struck by it's exhausting your schedule. I mean it's like up at 5:30, on a plane, you and the president.

BUSH: We wake up every morning at 5:30, so that's not hard for us.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I don't know what time you go to bed but you're going off to some country.

BUSH: Pretty early.

VAN SUSTEREN: Pretty early.

BUSH: As Laura says I'm a desperate housewife.

VAN SUSTEREN: I won't pursue that any further. I'll drop that one. But, you know, but it's interesting how after a first family leaves the White House the work doesn't stop.

BUSH: It could.


BUSH: It could but just to show up at a lunch raises money. I went to the Gladney home lunch last week before I left for Easter with the family. All I had to do was show up and I'm a Gladney grandmother I must say so that's very exciting for me. But I mean I didn't have to stay for lunch even, just being there helps raise money. It's not the whole thing but it does raise money. By going to anything if you're a former president raises money, so you feel guilty if you stay home.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is it more fun to be a former first lady or to be first lady?

BUSH: That's a very hard question because it was great to be first lady but I don't ever regret what I can't do or what I can't have but it's great fun not being first lady. George says if I dyed my hair I could go places without people saying "Do you mind signing this" or whatever? But I think you'd think that was funny wouldn't you?

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you wrote about it in your book about dying your hair. You've had an experience dying your hair and it was not a fun...

BUSH: Well that was when I was young.

VAN SUSTEREN: Yes, indeed.

BUSH: I got white about the time I was 40 and George's darling mother said to me one day, she never sort of said do this or do that but she did it by hints and she said, "I think Louise Walker is so smart the way she colors her hair so she looks as young as her husband." So, I raced for the bottle of course.


VAN SUSTEREN: We're going to have much more of our interview with former first lady Barbara Bush tomorrow night.

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