October 2017
Dear Houston Community,

Service unites. The truth and power in this simple, two-word statement are profound. You need look no further than your own backyard, street, or neighborhood to witness the depth of its significance in the aftermath of the catastrophic hurricane. Harvey called and Houston answered with resounding fervor.
Not only did Houstonians extend a helping hand by donating goods, volunteering their time and talent, giving money to support those in need, and offering prayers, but so did people and organizations from across our nation and the globe. The storm clouds may have cast darkness over our city, but the many points of light - volunteers in service to others - shined brightly for all the world to see.
As we collectively advance efforts to help Houston families rebuild and renew their sense of hope and optimism for a bright future, we must also nurture and cultivate the spirit and culture of service across our city. We united in service during this time of crisis. Just imagine how much greater Houston would be if we continued to uphold this culture of service to address other big problems facing our area and our nation.
Thank you for supporting our cause and being a point of light for others to follow.

Yours in service,

Julie Baker Finck, Ph.D.

"Barbara and I are in Maine, but our hearts are in Houston. We are praying for all of our fellow Houstonians and Texans affected by Harvey, and truly inspired by the flotilla of volunteers -- Points of Light all -- who are answering the call to help their neighbors. We salute them, the first responders, and the local elected officials for their grit and determination in the face of this extraordinary storm. This we know: Houston, and Texas, will come together and rebuild." 

President George H.W. Bush


First Ladies Laura and Barbara Bush.
First Ladies Barbara and Laura Bush have united through their Foundations - The Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation and The Laura Bush Foundation for America's Libraries - to support education in the aftermath of recent catastrophic hurricanes. Combined, our Foundations have pledged an initial $2 million and are working together to raise additional funds to help rebuild public, classroom and home libraries and provide needed educational materials and supplies.

"This fall, we have witnessed devastating forces of nature," said Mrs. Laura Bush. "I am thrilled to be partnering with the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation during this time of great need. We are committed to rebuilding school libraries that have been damaged during this year's hurricane season so that our nation's children have the resources they need to be successful in the classroom and beyond."

"As heartbroken as George and I were watching Hurricane Harvey engulf our beloved Texas with unprecedented floodwaters, so too were we moved by the selfless heroism of the first responders and neighbors who risked their own safety to help others," said Mrs. Barbara Bush. "Seeing Texans reaching out and coming together is why I am so proud to join Laura and her foundation to equip our childcare centers, schools and libraries with resources they need to help children and their families continue on the path to recovery."

Learn more about the partnership and donate today

We are pleased to announce that Dollar General Literacy Foundation has generously awarded us a $250,000 grant in support of our Harvey Relief Initiative. Funds will be used to purchase home libraries for more than 8,000 children affected by Hurricane Harvey. This incredible gift provides a big boost to our My Home Library program and advances our goal of serving 25,000 children this school year.

"Books provide a powerful gift," said Denine Torr, senior director of community initiatives for Dollar General Literacy Foundation. "They not only inspire creativity, increase knowledge and foster dreams, but studies have also shown that access to print materials is a leading indicator in a child's success in reading. By supporting My Home Library, we are helping ensure all children have access to quality books in their home."

In addition to support for the My Home Library program, Dollar General Literacy Foundation granted an additional $137,800 to Kids In Need Foundation, which will provide school supplies and backpacks to more than 100,000 Texas children affected by the devastating storms through their Second Responder® program. We are deeply grateful to Dollar General Literacy Foundation and Kids In Need Foundation for their partnership in meeting the great need across our city.


Experts from Children's Learning Institute display
books and lesson plans.
We are proud to partner with experts at Children's Learning Institute (CLI) of The University of Texas Health Science Center to support teachers working with children in communities affected by Hurricane Harvey. CLI's team of child psychologists and education specialists are nationally recognized for developing and testing evidence-based classroom resources and interventions. In response to Harvey, CLI created a collection of lessons that are linked to popular children's books and explore feelings common to natural disasters, such as loss, fear, courage, and cooperation. "We prepared a set of lessons that feature popular books teachers can readily access and pair them with extension activities designed to support children's emotional recovery," said Tricia Zucker, Ph.D., associated director for CLI. "It can be quite comforting to children (and adults) to relate to characters who have had a 'terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day' after weathering a storm like this."

With support from the Foundation, CLI is printing and distributing the lesson packets at a free book giveaway on Saturday, October 7, where elementary teachers will be given 30 free books to take back to their classrooms. The lessons will also be distributed to teachers in schools in which the Foundation will be hosting My Home Library Build Events, during which students get to choose six free books to encourage at-home reading. The lessons can be downloaded at no cost from CLI Engage, CLI's online platform for educational tools and resources. We encourage you to share this information with teachers in your circle of influence.

As part of our Harvey Relief Initiative, we are proud to join American Federation of Teachers (AFT), First Book and AFT Texas this Saturday, October 7th at the Friends of the Houston Public Library, 6510 West Little York Road, beginning at 8:00 A.M. to give away a semi-truckload of brand new books to elementary teachers whose classroom libraries were destroyed by the storm. Teachers will be able to choose 30 new books from a wide selection of children's books.

In addition to underwriting the cost of the books, the organizations have seeded the "Essentials for Kids Fund" with $200,000 to grant First Book Marketplace credits of up to $200 each to Harvey-affected educators. Credits can be used by educators to purchase needed classroom supplies, instructional materials, books and other resources.

Jungle Book Gala Committee.

Honorary Chair, Whitney Mercilus,
holds autographed jersey donated
to the silent auction.
What do you get when you combine 250 guests wearing black tie attire and glow necklaces while sipping drinks and dancing to music as a stilt giraffe and zebra roam the room amidst the chandeliers at The Dunlavy? The answer, of course, is another sold-out Jungle Book Gala hosted by our incredible Young Professionals Group (YPG). It its third year, proceeds from this event benefit children across Houston by supporting literacy-focused mentoring programs and home libraries for disadvantaged children.

Whitney Mercilus, #59 of the Houston Texans served as Honorary Chair and YPG members Alexa Bode and William Finnorn served as Gala Co-Chairs. More than $80,000 was raised at the event. We are grateful to each of them, along with members of the Gala Host Committee and Gala Committee, as well as our sponsors, including Bank of Texas, Deloitte, Phillips 66, Beverly and Jim Postl, and Lucas Somoza, silent auction donors, and guests for making this a memorable evening with a meaningful impact.

Orbit summarizes the key benefits of daily reading.
We are proud to team up with Phillips 66 and the Houston Astros for the third year in a row to educate children about the importance of reading. Through this high-energy, humorous and fun-filled program, Houston Astros' mascot, Orbit, learns about and shares these three key benefits of reading for at least 20 minutes every day: Get Smarter. Learn New Things. Prepare for Your Future. Sometimes it just takes a fuzzy, lovable green guy in our line-up to inspire the love of reading. 

Orbit hits home runs every time!

We are pleased to announce that Penguin Random House, an international book publishing firm with an expansive publishing portfolio containing books for all ages, and First Book, a nonprofit social enterprise that provides new books, learning materials, and other essentials to children in need, have joined our My Home Library team. Penguin Random House is our newest addition to our growing list of book publishers, including Arte Publico Press, BrightSky, Longtale Publishing, and Scholastic to provide us generous discounts on popular children's books through the My Home Library program. In addition to remarkable pricing, our partnership with Penguin Random House and First Book will expand the number and diversity of books in the My Home Library catalog from which children select and build their home libraries. Specifically, the catalog will be expanded to include books in the Penguin Young Readers, Random House Children's Book and National Geographic collections, as well as books from New York Times bestselling authors such as Judy Blume, Brad Meltzer, Roald Dahl. The First Book partnership will also expand options for children from Disney and other publishers.

Our goal this coming school year is to provide 25,000 disadvantaged and Harvey-affected children with home libraries. You can help us reach our goal and make an impact on a child by making a tax-deductible donation at MyHomeLibraryHouston.org.

Children line up to pet Charles the Chuckwalla during ZooMobile event.
September was National Literacy Awareness Month, and in celebration of this important issue, the Houston Zoo's ZooMobile visited three elementary schools last month in partnership with the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation and the Early Matters Coalition.

During these special ZooMobile visits, the students at Hartsfield, Scroggins and Peck elementary schools learned about how they can help reduce threats to wildlife by recycling paper and plastic. They also made connections with a porcupine, a parrot, a snake, and a chuckwalla named Charles-whom the children could touch.

The students also received four tickets to the Houston Zoo and a book courtesy of Early Matters and the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation, called "Grant the Jigsaw Giraffe," authored and illustrated by Houstonians, Julie Coy Maniér and Grant Maniér. The children's book is about a fictional jigsaw giraffe, Grant, living in a zoo who uses recycled material to create works of art, much like his human author, also named Grant. This book was selected to highlight the importance of conservation, inspire children to find their own talent, and enable them to experience the joy and power of reading.

The Houston Zoo's ZooMobile and its team of experienced staff travel to schools and community events throughout Greater Houston providing a unique and educational experience to a variety of audiences. These engaging events allow participants to come eye-to-eye with fascinating ambassador animals, engage with zoo educators, and be inspired to help save animals in the wild. 

This partnership was made possible by the generous support of Beverly and Jim Postl and Joe and Cathy Cleary.

We are thrilled to announce that the Curiosity Cruiser, a custom-built, 30-foot mobile library will make its first public debut on October 24at the sold-out Power of Literacy Luncheon hosted by our Ladies for Literacy Guild. An initiative of the Ladies for Literacy Guild, the 18-month project has been a labor of true love for all of those involved. More than $350,000 was raised to fund the design and build of the Curiosity Cruiser, stock it with books and technology, create two incredible mascots - Owlbotron and Northtale, and design engaging educational programs. The Curiosity Cruiser will be donated to the Harris County Public Library so that they may deliver programs and services to children and families across the greater Houston area. In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey which severely impacted several county and city public libraries, the launch of the Curiosity Cruiser will, in part, fill a gap in services.

Visit CuriosityCruiser.com and our Facebook page www.facebook.com/bushhoustonliteracy on October 24 for the big reveal!

Hurricane Harvey caused catastrophic impact on the Greater Houston Region and down the Gulf Coast of Texas, flooding schools and homes and affecting tens of thousands of children. To help children in need regain access to books in their home, we will host My Home Library Build Events 
at schools and licensed childcare centers across the greater Houston area.

Here is how a My Home Library Build Event works:
  1. The Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation orders a large collection of brand new, popular children's books from our book partners.
  2. All children within a partner school or licensed childcare center are given an opportunity to participate in the event, during which they choose six books with help from volunteers and staff.
  3. Children are given book marks, bags and their six books at no cost to them thanks to our sponsors and donors.
  4. Children leave wearing big smiles and carrying the tools they need to become strong readers.
To make this happen, we need teams of 8-10 volunteers to assist with setting up a My Home Library Build Event at designated schools and serving as ambassadors by helping children select their books the day of the event.


Mrs. Barbara Bush is one of the most beloved first ladies in the history of our country. Championing the cause of literacy and wearing her signature pearls, Mrs. Bush has created a legacy of impact that will transcend generations.

The Ladies for Literacy Guild of the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation is honored to host a raffle for the exquisite, double strand of pearls worn by First Lady Barbara Bush in this photograph. You have a chance to win these graduated white freshwater pearls measuring 13.2mm - 18.0mm, accompanied by the photograph for authenticity.  Purchase your raffle tickets today for $100 each.
The drawing for the raffle will be held at the 2017 Power of Literacy Luncheon on October 24, 2017. Winner need not be present to win. Proceeds from the raffle benefit the educational initiatives of the Ladies for Literacy Guild. 

This special raffle was made possible thanks to the generosity of Barbara Bush and our friends at  Tenenbaum Jewelers.

New longitudinal research published by New York University in the journal Applied Developmental Science finds that children whose parents provide them with learning materials like books and toys and engage them in learning activities and meaningful conversations in infancy and toddlerhood are likely to develop early cognitive skills that persist to higher 5th grade achievement levels.

The research studied entailed following more than 2000 families enrolled in the Early Head Start Research Evaluation Project over a 10-year period. Children's learning environments were measured through a series of home visits at 14 months, at 2 and 3 years, and at pre-kindergarten. The researchers looked at literacy activities (including reading aloud and teaching letters and numbers), learning materials in the home (including books, toys, or games that facilitate learning), and the quality of mothers' interactions with their children.

This study highlights the importance of the role of a parent in fostering foundational skills that set their child up for later academic success and the value of having access to resources in the home to foster richer interactive learning experiences.

"There is growing evidence for the power of early learning environments on later academic success," said Catherine Tamis-LeMonda, Ph.D., the study's lead author and a professor of applied psychology at NYU Steinhardt. "Our study confirms that strong home learning environments arm children with foundational skills that are springboards to long-term academic achievement."

We are pleased that Dr. Catherine Tamis-LeMonde will be serving as the keynote speaker for the 2nd annual Power of Literacy Luncheon hosted by the Ladies for Literacy Guild on October 24, 2017 at River Oaks Country Club. The luncheon is chaired by Ladies for Literacy Guild Founding Member, Ginger Blanton.

Read the full research report using the full citation: New York University. "Child's home learning environment predicts 5th grade academic skills." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 August 2017.