First Lady Barbara Bush with Foundation President Dr. Julie Baker Finck.
Dear Houston Community,

Happy New Year! The ringing in of a new year provides us with an opportunity to reflect on the past and look forward to an even a brighter and more prosperous year ahead. During this annual milestone, many of us make resolutions to live a healthier lifestyle, save more money, advance in our education or career, start a new hobby, or spend more time with family and friends. As you finalize the commitments you will make for yourself, I encourage you to set a goal to give more in ways that will enrich the lives of others. You will be guaranteed to enrich your own life in the process.

First Lady Mrs. Barbara Bush says, "Giving frees us from the familiar territory of our own needs by opening our mind to the unexplained worlds occupied by the needs of others." I think this statement is something that we should all take to heart at any time of year, but particularly as we set our goals for 2017. There is tremendous power that comes with the act of giving. Not power as in status; rather, power as in the magnitude of impact and meaning that your selfless actions and gifts can have on yourself and those with whom you serve.

I invite you to get more involved with the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation and our literacy partners in 2017. Whether you join one of our auxiliary groups - Ladies for Literacy or Young Professionals, volunteer your time serving as a reading mentor to an adult or child, increase your financial commitment, or form a partnership with us through your company, church or civic group, you can make a difference.

Will you help us change lives this year?


Julie Baker Finck, Ph.D.

Research has evidenced time and time again that if children have access to books in their home and choice in the books they read, then they will read more often and achieve at higher academic levels. Unfortunately, children living in middle- to upper-income families have an average of 12 age-appropriate books in their home as compared to only 1 book for every 300 low-income households. More than 80 percent of Houston-area public school children are considered "economically disadvantaged." Put simply, while books are essential tools for children to reach success, many parents in our city cannot afford to purchase them for their children.

My Home Library provides a solution to the book gap found in homes of economically disadvantaged children across Houston. Specifically, through the My Home Library website, children will be able to create a wish list of books for their very own home library, and members of the community will be able to sponsor a specific child's home library by making a tax-deductible donation. On January 17, in partnership with  Marathon Oil Corporation, the  Wade Smith Foundation and the  Houston Super Bowl Host Committee, we will kick off the pilot of My Home Library at  Browning Elementary School, a school in which more than 90 percent of the 600 children are eligible for the federal Free and Reduced Lunch program. Our goal is to provide a home library for every single child at the school.

My Home Library was developed last fall in partnership with  Credera and a team of volunteer technologists from across the Houston community. We are very grateful to  Phillips 66 for sponsoring the My Home Library application and to  Marathon Oil  Corporation employees for supporting the pilot of My Home Library at Browning Elementary School. If you would like to help kick-start our My Home Library project by making a tax-deductible donation, please  click here.


We are excited to have  Jim Gaffigan, Grammy-nominated Comedian and New York Times® bestselling author, as one of our featured authors at this year's  A Celebration of Reading event . This multi-platinum selling performer will be sharing stories from his second book,  Food: A Love Story, which was released in 2014 and is an in-depth, uninformed examination of healthy food and things that people truly enjoy eating. His first book,  Dad is Fat, was released in 2013 by Crown Publishing and debuted on the  New York Times® bestseller list, remaining in the top 20 for 17 weeks. Jim will share the stage at the 23rd annual A Celebration of Reading with  Bill Browder and  Sue Grafton. Additional authors to be announced.  Learn more about Jim Gaffigan, Bill Browder and Sue Grafton and purchase tickets, tables or sponsorship for the event today.

Join the Bush Family for  A Celebration of Reading to be held on  Thursday,  April 20, 2016 at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts Proceeds from this extraordinary event benefit the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation and the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy.

Rafael Gomez of CITGO joins hands with Betty Hrncir, Kristen Stubbs, Stephanie Tsuru and Trish Morille in support of the Curiosity Cruiser initiative.

From left to right: Sylvia Kerrigan, Julie Finck, Kathy Sauvé, Kristen Stubbs, Betty Hrncir, Suzi Hauser, and José Calvillo

Last September the  Ladies for Literacy Guild  unveiled a signature initiative called the  Curiosity Cruiser , a one-of-a-kind mobile library that will hit the streets of Houston next summer in partnership with the Harris County Public Library. This 34-foot, custom library on wheels got a boost last month thanks to the generosity of  CITGO  and  Marathon Oil Corporation . CITGO made a $25,000 commitment and will serve as the official fuel sponsor for the Curiosity Cruiser, and Marathon Oil Corporation donated 20 laptops to enable children to have access to technology through the Curiosity Cruiser's education programs. We are grateful to receive these generous gifts in support of the Curiosity Cruiser initiative. 

Neff ECC Principal Leal, Rotary Club Governor Eric Liu and wife Sandra, First Book of Greater Houston Director Sheila Long Armstrong, former NFL player Charles Davis, Dr. Julie Baker Finck and Ladies for Literacy Guild Member Patti Gillies line up to help distribute bicycles.

Neff ECC student rides off with a new bike he earned by meeting reading goals.

Nearly 8,000 children across the Greater Houston area received brand new bicycles and helmets last December as a reward for meeting their reading goals, thanks to CYLCE:  Changing Young Children's Lives through Education. "Our vision at CYCLE is that every student in the Greater Houston area will read at or above grade-level by the end of the 3 rd grade, putting them on the path to success and empowering them to reach their full potential in school and life," said Rebecca Roberts, Executive Director of CYCLE. "Providing children an opportunity to earn a bicycle for achieving their set goals is a great motivator and strategy for helping them learn that hard work equals reward."

More than 230 children who earned bicycles and helmets were first-graders at Neff Early Childhood Center in Houston ISD. Neff ECC Principal Dr. Gerardo Leal remarked, "It is exciting to see so many of our children attain their reading goals and be rewarded with new bicycles and helmets from CYCLE. I am so proud of the children's accomplishments and grateful to the families and our teachers for making reading a top priority."

In addition to receiving new bicycles and helmets this school year, every child at Neff ECC received brand new books through a partnership with First Book of Greater Houston. We think books and bicycles should be in every child's home.

Making It Better Executive Director Jacque Daughtry with student at Ross Elementary School holding new books donated by Scholastic Book Fairs®.

Child hugs book distributed by our Young Professionals Group at the annual Kids' Meals, Inc. holiday celebration.

For the second year in a row,  Scholastic Book Fairs®  has generously donated more than  14,000 books  to the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation to place in the homes and hands of economically disadvantaged children across our city. The donation was made through the Scholastic's  All for Books program  and the  Scholastic Possible Fund , which was established as part of the company's  Open a World of Possible  reading initiative to provide donations of quality books to children in underserved communities. Through partnerships with local organizations, including  Higher Impact Ministries Houston Area Urban League, Kids Meals, Inc . and  Making It Better , several thousand of the books donated by Scholastic Book Fairs® have already been distributed during programs and events held in December. We are deeply grateful to Scholastic Book Fairs® and our local literacy partners for helping to spread the joy of reading to so many children this holiday season. 

Jaye McAfee sorts books with daughter Aaliyah and members of the Girl Scout troop at Books Between Kids.
Throughout the year the Children's Museum of Houston circulates 13,000 Family Literacy Involvement Program ("FLIP") kits to 39 Houston Public Library branches for families to check out and use at home with their children to help build strong literacy skills. On December 21, as part of our family-friendly holiday volunteer  opportunities, community members gave their time to clean and restock FLIP Kits for circulation around our community. It was here that we first met Jaye McAfee and her daughter Aaliyah.

One week later, Jaye and her daughter volunteered again at the Books Between Kids warehouse, this time joined by members of Aaliyah's Girl Scout troop Victoria Jackson, Allison Shackelford, and Abigail Shackelford. Here they helped inventory, sort, and box children's books to be distributed to low income HISD Elementary schools. When asked what brought her and the girls out to volunteer this holiday season, Jaye stated, "My girls have been blessed with so much. I want them to know that it's important to always give back and help others that are not as fortunate."

We are grateful to members of the McAfee family and their friends for giving of their time in service to others and encourage you to do so in 2017 by signing up and serving through Connect4Literacy.org. 

This holiday season, we joined members of our Connect4Literacy.org Literacy Partners Network, including iWrite, Making It Better, Books Between Kids, Kids' Meals, Inc., the Children's Museum of Houston, Friends of the Houston Public Library and the Houston Public Library to co-host special volunteer opportunities. These events provided opportunities for members of the community to volunteer with their family and friends in order to give back this holiday season. More than 140 adults and children volunteered at these events aimed at boosting capacity for literacy programs.
During the first two weeks of December, iWrite and Texas Tamale Company hosted its 2 nd annual book drive, called Literacy in the Bag, in the Montrose and Heights neighborhoods. Volunteers dropped off and picked up bags at residences in both neighborhoods. All books collected were given to low income children in Houston and the Friends of the Houston Public Library. On December 15 , members of the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation worked with Making It Better to host a celebration for students at Ross Elementary participating in Making It Better's Reading Intervention program. The staff read aloud to the students, decorated cookies and distributed books donated by the Foundation to start or add to their home libraries. Other events included sorting donated books to be redistributed by Books Between Kids and Friends of the Houston Public Library, stuffing FLIP Kits for the Children's Museum of Houston and packing lunches with Kids' Meals. Thank you to our partners and volunteers who worked so hard to make these holiday events a success!