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December 9, 2005

Jennifer Grice
(850) 488-5394
Jennifer Fennell
(850) 245-0413

First Lady Bush Awards Winners of Just Read, Florida!'s Reading in the Arts Contest
Thousands of Florida's schoolchildren participated in "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" contest

ORLANDO — First Lady Columba Bush was joined today by Florida Department of Education Chancellor of K-12 Cheri Pierson Yecke and representatives from Just Read, Florida!, Disney-MGM Studios and Walden Media to award the winners of the Just Read, Florida! reading in the arts contest, "Florida's Journey into the Land of Narnia." The awards ceremony was held at the site of Disney-MGM Studios' new attraction, Journey Into Narnia: Creating The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, and was followed by a private screening of the movie, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, released today.

"The arts play a vital role in education, helping students develop skills they will hold onto for a lifetime," said Mrs. Bush. "Combining the arts with reading opens up a new world of discovery for students and inspires an enthusiasm for learning. I am impressed with all of the entries submitted for the contest and congratulate all students who shared their unique vision of ‘Narnia.'"

Each winner was joined by their family and teacher as they received prize packages including Apple iPods®, a weekend stay at Disney's Swan and Dolphin Resort, dinner at Orlando's Medieval Times, movie memorabilia, passes to Disney Theme Parks, and gift certificates for Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million, Borders Books and Music, Simon Malls and Starbucks Coffee Company. Teachers of the winners and their classrooms also received prize packages including cash prizes from PEOExperts. In addition to Walt Disney Pictures and Walden Media, the contest was sponsored by more than 25 businesses and organizations.

"I applaud all of today's winners and the thousands of Florida students who participated in this contest for combining their reading skills and artistic talents to create imaginative portrayals of a classic piece of children's literature," said Chancellor Yecke. "When we incorporate exercises that involve reading into other subject areas, such as the arts, we take another step toward our goal of building better readers and ensuring success for all students."

The statewide contest which focused on the book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis ended on November 25. It was created for students in grades 3 through 12 in public, private and home school. The contest received more than 5,000 submissions with 3,006 essays, 2,488 illustrations and 52 videos. Winners awarded today in each of the three categories are:

  • Elementary Grades 3-5: Short Essay Contest – Gregory James Grumbar, a fifth grade student in Virginia Root's class at Del Prado Elementary School in Boca Raton
  • Middle School, Grades 6-8: Illustration Contest – Alexa Jo Udermann, an eighth grade student in Kent McAllister's class at the Rochelle School of the Arts in Lakeland
  • High School, Grades 9-12: Short Video Contest – ninth grade student Stephanie Marie Hurst, tenth grade student Ariel Faith Peck and eleventh grade student Charity Grace Peck, in Kathleen Peck's class at Allendale Academy in Clearwater

The entries in each category were judged by representatives from various organizations and institutions, including:

  • Elementary Level Judges:
    Department of State – State Libraries and Archives
    Department of State - Division of Cultural Affairs
    Just Read, Florida!
    Department of Education
  • Middle School Level Judges:
    Florida Art Education Association
    The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale
  • High School Level Judges:
    Governor's Office of Film & Entertainment
    Florida State University Film School
    The Florida Knowledge Network

Specific guidelines were used for evaluating each category. Elementary students were judged on their creativity, grammar and spelling, choice of words and organization of their essay. Middle school illustrations were based on the illustration and communication of an emotion, event or concept related to the book, use of the elements of art and principles of design and the work's control of the media and craftsmanship. The videos submitted by high school students considered the work's originality, screenplay, directing, acting performances, cinematography, sound/music, editing, production design and any special effects.

Just Read, Florida! is Governor Jeb Bush's statewide reading initiative to achieve the goal of every child reading at or above grade level by the year 2012. The initiative is designed to guide changes at every level of education that have an impact on reading outcomes in Florida schools. In fiscal year 2005-06, this initiative received $89 million for a K-12 comprehensive, district-wide system of research-based reading instruction with $50,000 minimum for each school district.

For more information on the Just Read, Florida! initiative, visit