A Pima County Public Library program was recognized nationally Friday at the White House, as First Lady Laura Bush awarded the program a Coming Up Taller Award for 2008.

Children and adults from the Word Journeys program at the Pima County Public Library traveled to Washington, D.C., to accept the award from Bush in a ceremony in the East Room of the White House.

The Word Journeys program, which builds on popular children's books to engage Tucson area youth in creative learning and development, will be one of the 19 honorees from communities in the U.S., Mexico, China and Egypt that will receive Coming Up Taller Awards today. More than 350 programs were nominated this year.

Word Journeys was created through a partnership between the Pima County Public Library and Amphitheater School District.

The program uses the library as a learning space for children from racially diverse and economically challenged neighborhoods. It's workshops usually begin with a reading from a children's book on a particular theme, and the kids then engage in crafts and writing exercises that encourage children to reflect on the theme and how to relate it to their own lives.

Each workshop includes a "treasure hunt" to familiarize kids with library resources. For the first time, this year's program included a group of Bantu refugees from Somalia, who were able to find new friends to ease their transitions into local schools.

Coming Up Taller is an initiative of the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH) in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The program was founded in 1998.

The honored programs receive $10,000 in honor of their accomplishments.

● Information from PR Newswire was used in the report.