May 2017
Ron and Julie Finck with Maria and Neil Bush.
Photo Credit: Michelle Watson, CatchLight Group
Dear Houston Community,

Every year in April we hold a signature event, called A Celebration of Reading, to raise funds to carry forth Mrs. Barbara Bush's legacy and advance our mission to improve lives through the power of literacy. The event also provides us with an opportunity to raise awareness about the important work we are doing in the Houston community and invite the 1,800 guests to join our important cause. 

Bestselling authors David Brooks, Bill Browder, Sue Grafton, and our surprise guest, President George W. Bush, gave freely of their time to share personal stories, and students from Spring ISD's Westfield High School gave an incredible performance of Brand New Day from the musical, The Wiz, during the program. We are deeply grateful for their generosity of time and talent. We also appreciate Title Sponsor Phillips 66, Presenting Sponsor Quanex Foundation, and the many other corporate, family and individual donors whose contributions helped us garner nearly $2.3 million. We are deeply grateful for the outpouring of support. 

An event of this magnitude does not happen without the dedication and expertise of a team of people. Our partners at Dancie Perugini Ware Public Relations, Empower Events, Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, Jackson & Company, Rees Media, and Ward and Ames Special Events, as well as the volunteers and Foundation staff, all made this year's A Celebration of Reading one of the best yet. Thank you all!

Last, but certainly not least, we wish to extend our sincere appreciation to members of the Bush family -  First Lady Mrs. Barbara Bush and Foundation Co-Founders Neil and Maria Bush for hosting the event, and grandchildren Lauren Bush Lauren, Pierce Bush, Lizzie Andrews, Alexander Andrews, Clemmie Pierce, and Marshall Bush Rossi for participating in and attending the program.

Information on how to access photos and videos from the event can be found in this edition of our newsletter, so be sure read further and check them out. Also, please mark your calendars for Thursday, April 19, 2018 and plan to attend the 24th Annual A Celebration of Reading.


Julie Baker Finck, Ph.D.

From Left: Bill Browder, Barbara Bush, President George W. Bush,
Sue Grafton, David Brooks, Maria and Neil Bush.
Photo Credit: David Shutts
Watch our inspiring video about the 
Barbara Bush Literacy Effect.  

Hear from the Bush Family
Hear from the Bush Family

Mrs. Bush meets Owlbotron and Northtale.

The Ladies for Literacy Guild Executive Committee and Mrs. Barbara Bush were surprised with a reveal of the mascots, Owlbotron and Northtale, for the Curiosity Cruiser initiative. Designed by Love Advertising and produced by Maydwell Mascots, these towering mascots are sure to delight children across Houston when they hit the streets this summer in the 30-foot, custom-built mobile library currently under construction. "Seeing Owlbotron and Northtale for the first time was thrilling," exclaimed Trish Morille, Guild Co-Vice President of Community Engagement. "After a year of planning, talking to kids and parents, working with the amazing designers to develop the see them come to life was something I will never forget. It was such an incredible surprise. I can't wait to see the faces of children when they meet Owlbotron and Northtale."

The Curiosity Cruiser is an initiative of the Guild in partnership with the Harris County Public Library aimed at providing high-quality and engaging educational programs to disadvantaged children in low-income communities and helping them to build their very own home libraries. Curiosity Cruiser is funded through proceeds from the Power of Literacy Luncheon and is sponsored by Phillips 66, CITGO and the Tsuru family. Stay tuned for more exciting developments!
Ladies for Literacy Guild Executive Committee members reveal
Curiosity Cruiser mascots at Tenenbaum Jewelers.


Child reads books given through My Home Library.
Photo credit: Michelle Watson, CatchLight Group 
This month, thanks to the generosity of Phillips 66, Marathon Oil, the University of Houston College of Education, the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee and donors like you, more than 1,800 area elementary schoolchildren will receive their very own home library just in time for summer break through our My Home Library Initiative.

Why is My Home Library so important? It is because children of economically disadvantaged families and English Language Learners enter school facing an uphill battle as compared to their more affluent peers. While teachers and principals work tirelessly to narrow the achievement gap during the school year, children who lack access to books (or meaningful learning skill levels) fall behind when the doors of the schoolhouse close for the summer. According to researchers, this "summer learning slide" compounds from year after year and is the primary cause of widening achievement gaps between students of lower and higher socio-economic levels. Specifically, by the end of the ninth grade, studies have shown that students have fallen two or more years behind their middle-class peer groups in reading and verbal abilities due solely to the "summer slide."

With more than 80 percent of public school children in Houston being economically disadvantaged and nearly one-third English Language Learners, the summer slide can have a far-reaching impact. It's not too late for you to get involved. Make a meaningful impact on a child this summer by providing a home library.


Last month the Houston Rockets Women's Organization teamed up with Reliant and the Ladies for Literacy Guild of the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation to host a community book drive at a home game during the NBA Playoffs. Not only did the Houston Rockets win the game on April 19, but also many local literacy organizations across the community won big. Thanks to the generosity of fans and Reliant employees, nearly 7,000 books were collected. Our partner literacy organizations, including Amaanah Refugee Services, Books Between Kids, Children's Museum of Houston, Community Family Centers, Houston Area Urban League, Houston Center for Literacy, Houston Public Library Foundation, House of Charity, HYPE Freedom School, Kids' Reading Room, Literacy Advance of Houston, Making It Better, Memorial Hermann, and Small Steps Learning Center,  all received the books to support their programs and place them in the hands of children and adults across Houston.

Dr. Finck with Dr. Anne McClellan.

The University of Houston College of Education annually recognizes outstanding community members for making a difference in the lives of children and families. We are deeply grateful to Dean Robert McPherson, Dr. Anne McClellan, Director for Growth and Innovation, and their entire team for honoring the Foundation's president, Dr. Julie Finck, with the prestigious Community Education Partner Award for her leadership and advocacy for improving the city's troubling literacy rates. We are very proud to partner with the University of Houston to improve student success in Houston's historic Third Ward by supporting the engagement of college students as reading mentors to first graders, providing books to schools for one-on-one reading, and partnering on the My Home Library initiative to provide more books in the homes of disadvantaged children in the community. 

We are pleased to announce that Catherine Tamis-LaMonde, Ph.D., Professor of Applied Psychology at New York University, will serve as the keynote speaker for the 2017 Power of Literacy Luncheon. Dr. Tamis-LaMonde's research at NYU's Center for Research on Culture, Development, and Education focuses on infant and toddler learning and development in the areas of language and communication, object play, cognition, motor skills, gender identity, emotion regulation, and social understanding, as well as the long-term implications of early emerging skills for children's developmental trajectories. A core emphasis of this research is on the quality of mothers' and fathers' interactions with children and the influence of those interactions on the cognitive and social development of children.

The Power of Literacy Luncheon is the signature event hosted by the Foundation's Ladies for Literacy Guild. This year's luncheon is chaired by Ginger Blanton and is slated for Tuesday, October 24, at the River Oaks Country Club. Phillips 66 will once again serve as the title sponsor. 

Approximately 800 disadvantaged elementary children across Houston will have an incredible opportunity to participate in a two-week free program called Camp Adventure! We have once again teamed up with Phillips 66, the Houston Area Urban League, the Houston Symphony and the Children's Museum of Houston to host the camps at Bastian Elementary School and Atherton Elementary School in HISD. Corporate partners PricewaterhouseCoopers, Target, Schlumberger, JP Morgan Chase, and Phillips 66 are co-designing the two-week curriculum, providing volunteers to serve as instructors and mentors, and offering other resources to ensure that children have a fun and engaging experience this summer.