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Video: Laura and Jenna Bush on their book

TODAY contributor
updated 4/22/2008 10:59:36 AM ET 2008-04-22T14:59:36

Jenna Bush is the President’s daughter, but the White House has never been her home. And so, when it came time to choose the site for her upcoming wedding, she turned to the place where she felt most comfortable — the Bush family ranch in Crawford, Texas.

“Texas is home to me,” Jenna told TODAY’s Ann Curry on Tuesday.

Jenna and her mother, first lady Laura Bush, were in New York to promote the release of their new children’s book, “Read All About It.” The first lady also made television history by co-hosting the program from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. ET.

When the President and Mrs. Bush moved into the White House in 2001, Jenna Bush was in school at the University of Texas. She and her twin sister, Barbara, were never part of the Washington scene.

“I did live in Washington,” said Jenna, “but I never lived in the White House.”

When she and her fiancé, Henry Hager, started to make plans for their May 10 wedding, the option of the glamorous White House wedding was available to them. And, perhaps to the surprise of many, they rejected it in favor of a private ceremony with a guest list of just 200.

“I guess it maybe says we’re crazy,” Jenna said with a laugh as she explained the decision. “I wanted to be at home, and I wanted it to feel natural and I wanted it to be a private thing. It’s the one day of my life — it happens once — that I want to have a private time with Henry and my family. Plus, I’m not that glamorous. I’m more an outdoor type.”

The sunset ceremony, she told Curry, “will be lovely and private and simple, and, we hope, the wildflowers will be blooming.”

Her gown, which she has described to Vogue magazine as simple and casual, is an Oscar de la Renta creation of embroidered organza with matte beading and a small train. Barbara Bush will be her sister’s maid of honor. Jenna’s 14 attendants will wear short chiffon dresses by Lela Rose, a Texas designer, in green, blue, yellow and lavender.

The first lady and Jenna watched with amusement as studio monitors showed a montage of clips of President Bush dancing at various functions, most recently this week.

“I think he’s practicing to dance at his daughter’s wedding,” joked Laura Bush, who added, “He can actually dance.”

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Literacy campaign
The first lady and Jenna Bush beamed as they talked about their book — Laura Bush’s first and Jenna’s second — whose launch coincided with their TODAY visit. “Read All About It” is a children’s book whose main character is a boy named Tyrone who doesn’t think reading is a fit pursuit for an active and athletic boy.

“Tyrone is like so many boys,” Laura Bush said. “He loves everything real. He rules the school. He just doesn’t like books, because he doesn’t think they’re real.”

Laura Bush, who was a teacher before she was a first lady, has devoted much of her time in the White House to encouraging children to read. She said she’s wanted to write a book for some time and had discussed the idea of co-authoring a book with Jenna for more than a year.

Their book is based on the stories Laura Bush would bring back from school about the kids in her classes.

“Tyrone is actually a composite of a lot of little boys that I taught and a lot of boys that Jenna taught, as well,” Laura Bush said.

“These are all stories she told us as little girls — how she encouraged her kids to love to read and use their imaginations,” Jenna added. “A lot of these stories are her kids.”

Jenna said that her own love of reading comes from her parents. “They read to us every night,” she said. “You mirror what your parents do. We wanted to be like them. They weren’t watching television — they turned the television off. We rarely watched TV as a family. We’d read.”

Jenna became a teacher herself at a charter school in Washington, D.C., after graduating from the University of Texas in 2004. She took a leave of absence from the job to work as an intern for UNICEF in Latin America. Her book about the experience, “Ana’s Story: A Journey of Hope,” was published last year.

The mother-and-daughter co-authors indicated that their book may become a series.

“We think maybe Tyrone has a few more stories to tell,” Laura Bush said. “This really brings together everything I’ve been interested in my whole life, and that’s reading and teaching and children and the teacher who reads the stories to her class each day until each of those characters comes alive.”

Part of the proceeds from the sale of the book will be donated to two education projects, Teach for America and The New Teacher Project.

Jenna Bush said she’s very lucky to be marrying a man who has encouraged her to pursue her passion for helping children, writing and teaching.

“He’s really fantastic and smart,” she told Curry. “It’s really great to be marrying someone who’s very supportive and encourages me to have a career and pursue things I’m passionate about.”

Wedding bells
After the wedding, the couple reportedly will move into a 128-year-old, two-bedroom, two-bath townhouse on the south side of Baltimore that they purchased for $440,000. Henry Hager is the son of John Hager, a former lieutenant governor of Virginia and assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Education under President Bush who now serves as the chairman of the Virginia Republican party.

A graduate of Wake Forest University, Henry Hager is completing graduate work at the Darden School of Business Administration at the University of Virginia and will reportedly take a job with Constellation Energy. Hager got his undergraduate degree at Wake Forest University. He interned for Karl Rove at the White House in 2003 and worked for the 2004 Bush re-election campaign, where he met Jenna.

For more information about "Read All About It," visit the HarperCollins Publishers Web site.

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