By Michael Newsom

GAUTIER, Miss. - The sound of hammers was encouraging, President Bush said Wednesday on his 10th trip to South Mississippi after stopping in at a Gautier elementary school and also visiting with workers rebuilding a waterfront home.

Jerry and Elaine Akins were watching builders on their lot Wednesday, when the Secret Service, White House staffers and a cavalcade of media descended, and the president climbed a ladder and helped a construction worker hammer a light fixture into place.

"People are building their lives back. And one of the reasons I've come down here is to remind people that there's still a lot of people hurting," Bush said. "And I talk to the governor all the time about what we can do to make sure this part of the world rebuilds. It's great to see rebuilding."

After a morning stop in New Orleans, the president and first lady Laura Bush, flanked by Gov. Haley Barbour and his first lady Marsha Barbour, stopped at College Park Elementary School to announce an initiative to help school libraries recover from Hurricane Katrina before coming to the Akins' home.

On the soon-to-be-porch, Bush said the new construction is encouraging.

"It is going to be pretty exciting to see this place rebuilt," he said as he talked with construction workers.

Bush said small businesses like the Martin Brothers Construction Co., which was building the home, would pave the way to recovery.

The Bushes helped install an American flag on the back porch area of the home.

When the motorcade left Ocean Springs Airport and snaked along the back roads of Gautier headed to the elementary school for the first stop, well wishers held hastily-made signs and law enforcement blocked all streets and most driveways along the eight-mile route.

At College Park Elementary, the Bushes underscored the need to focus on education as a part of the rebuilding process, and he announced there would be grants available to school libraries in Katrina affected zones through the Laura Bush Foundation for America's Libraries.

Since 2001, the foundation has distributed 428 grants, worth $2 million total. The funds, to be distributed to Katrina-damaged schools beginning next month, will be used to restock books, which could cost up to $100,000 per library, Laura Bush said.

There were 1,121 public and private schools that were damaged or destroyed in the hurricane, the first lady said.

The first lady made the announcement regarding the library project surrounded by about 50 school children.

"We all know that schools are at the very center of every child's life," she said. "And the routine of going to school gives children a sense of comfort that's more important than ever for boys and girls who have endured trauma. The sooner children are back in their own school, the happier and healthier they'll be."

The visit came just as Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., released a statement questioning Bush's record on rebuilding the Gulf Coast.

"Photo ops will not rebuild the Gulf Coast," Kerry said. "We need to demand that promises are kept so that New Orleans can come back stronger than before and families can come home. Six months ago, President Bush pledged to 'do what it takes.' Today marks the 10th time President Bush is visiting the Gulf Coast to say help is on the way. The help is overdue."