February 2017
Dr. Finck and Emily give a big smile and thumbs up after creating her My Home Library wish list.


Meet Emily, a second-grade student at Browning Elementary School. Emily loves to read, particularly biographies about prominent historical figures and adventure and fantasy books. She is one of more than 550 children in the school who have created wish lists as part of the My Home Library pilot initiative we launched in January. Like all wish lists that have been created online through the custom-designed website, Emily's wish list contains six books she wants to read at home and keep for her very own home library. Her list includes books such as I am Abraham Lincoln written by Brad Meltzer and Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach.

Ninety percent of the children in Emily's school are considered economically disadvantaged based on their family's level of income.  In fact, more than 84 percent of children in the Houston Independent School District-the largest district in Texas and the 7 th largest in America-are economically disadvantaged. Simply put, for many children right here in Houston, books are a luxury their families simply can't afford. Yet, research shows that when children have access to books in their homes, they read more often and have higher reading achievement levels.  Moreover, books in the home are a key factor in determining future success and mitigating setbacks in reading achievement evidenced during summer months. Summertime book access in the home is particularly imperative because children without books in the home lose two to three months of reading proficiency, while children who have access to books in the home actually gain reading proficiency.

I believe that everyone has the right to learn how to read. To ensure equity of opportunity for reading success, the book gap in our city must be closed. Visit MyHomeLibraryHouston.org today to sponsor a child's home library of six books with your $30 tax-deductible donation. Help make children like Emily's wish to have their very own home library come true. Your support is deeply appreciated. I look forward to sharing photos of the home library give-away in our March newsletter.


Julie Baker Finck, Ph.D.
Wade Smith engages children during the 
My Home Library kick-off event.
Photo Credit: Michelle Watson, CatchLight Group


On January 17 we kicked off the "My Home Library" pilot initiative at Browning Elementary School. My Home Library is an initiative aimed at providing more children access to books in the home. It uses a web-application developed by Credera which enables children to create a wish list of books and matches donors with a child in need. The initiative is generously sponsored by Phillips 66 and Marathon Oil Corporation and is supported by the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee through its Touchdown Houston Read On! program.

The reading rally kicking off the My Home Library was filled with celebrities and key leaders in our community, including Neil and Maria Bush, co-chairs of the Barbara Bush Houston Foundation; Wade Smith, former Houston Texans player and founder of the Wade Smith Foundation; Lee Tillman, Marathon Oil CEO; Anna Eastman, HISD Board of Education trustee; Herb Taylor , former Kansas City Chiefs player and owner of Ray's Real BBQ Pit; Chantelle Anderson, former WNBA player, San Antonio Stars; Sarah Marie Blanton, former Miss Texas; Caleb Ramsey, Professional baseball player, Washington Nationals; Albert Johnson III, former Miami Dolphin; and DjSupastar , 93.7 The Beat.

The program focused on the importance of reading and engaged children through a question and answer session with the celebrities through Reading with the Pros, a program of the Wade Smith Foundation. Following the reading rally, celebrities and community leaders read to children in their classrooms.
"This was a very special morning for our students," said Julia Elizondo, principal of Browning Elementary School. "The families and staff are deeply grateful to the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation and Marathon Oil Corporation for being selected as the pilot school for the My Home Library Initiative. To become strong readers, our children need books in their homes so that they can read independently or with an adult."
Our 2017 goal is to provide at least 5,100 low-income children with their very own home library. Thanks to generous individual donors and significant contributions from Phillips 66 and Marathon Oil Corporation, we are making strides to reach our goal. We encourage you to join us by sponsoring a child in need by visiting MyHomeLibraryHouston.org.

Neil and Maria Bush and Dr. Finck stand alongside celebrities who volunteered to participate in the My Home Library kick-off event.
Scott McClelland stands with

We are calling on all young professionals to join us Thursday, February 8, from 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM at H-E-B's Table 57 for a special networking event with special guest, Scott McClelland. Scott is most commonly known as "The H-E-B Guy" and is recognized widely for featuring Houston Texans' player JJ Watt in the grocery chain's brand commercials. 

Although it's exciting and fun that this corporate executive spends time hanging out with JJ and other prominent sports figures to push produce and prime meats through creative and comical advertisements, products are not the only thing Scott's been pushing these days.  


Sue Grafton, an American author best known for her detective novels and "alphabet series," beginning in 1982 with A is for Alibi and most recently X, will be our featured author at the upcoming A Celebration of Reading event. We are delighted to have her! Grafton's novels are international bestsellers with readership in the millions. After publishing two novels, she began writing screenplays for TV movies before developing the ideas for the alphabet novels. Grafton's latest book, X, has been described as her "darkest and most chilling novel." Click here to read more on Sue Grafton and other best-selling authors, including businessman Bill Browder and comedian Jim Gaffigan, who will also take the stage at A Celebration of Reading. We hope to see you at the twenty-third annual A Celebration of Reading event to be held on April 20, 2017 at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets, tables and sponsorships are available now. All proceeds from the event benefit the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation and the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy.

The Ladies for Literacy Guild of the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation is hosting an inaugural Book Drive to collect new and gently used children's books to help close the book gap for economically disadvantaged children across Houston. The Ladies for Literacy Guild Book Drive is led by Deborah Stavis, CEO of Stavis and Cohen, LLP, and Anne Taylor, Managing Partner at Deloitte. More than 240 members strong, this dynamic group of women has set a goal to collect 10,000 children's books during the Book Drive which will take place through March 2, 2017. Books collected through the Book Drive will stock the Curiosity Cruiser, a one-of-a-kind mobile library, which will hit the streets this summer, serving children pre-kindergarten through grade 8.
We are very pleased to announce that the Corporation for National and Community Service has awarded the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation, in partnership with the OneStar Foundation, an AmeriCorps Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) grant. This new grant will enable us to continue to build capacity for the implementation of the Blueprint for Community Action, aimed at increasing literacy rates across Houston. The grant will specifically provide for five AmeriCorps VISTA members who will focus their time and talents on key strategies including expanding access for economically disadvantaged children to after school and summer-based literacy programs and increasing availability of books in the home in partnership with our auxiliary groups and our literacy and community partners. We are deeply grateful to the Corporation for National Community Service for its investment in the literacy cause here in Houston and for the OneStar Foundation's continued partnership and support in the implementation of our AmeriCorps VISTA programs.

Neil and Maria Bush read aloud to a classroom of children.

Reading aloud with children for at least 15 minutes a day is one of the most important and effective strategies to boost oral language development and reading skills among children from birth. March is National Read Aloud Month, so we are partnering once again with organizations across Houston to spread the word about the importance of reading aloud to families across Houston. March 2is both Dr. Seuss's birthday and Read Across America Day, spearheaded by the National Education Association.

We encourage you to make plans to celebrate Read Across America Day with us by volunteering to read aloud to children in a school or library near you and/or by sharing photos of you reading aloud with your child on our Facebook page or via email at info@bushhoustonliteracy.org. Stay tuned for information on activities that will be taking place across our city, and don't wait until March to start making reading a daily habit in your family.

Catherine Geis holds a Focused Literacy Involvement Program ("FLIP") kit that she uses during her 30-minute reading sessions with a child.
Meet Catherine Geis, a volunteer in HISD's Read Houston Read program. Read Houston Read is a mentoring program in which volunteers work one-on-one with first- and second-graders once a week to promote a love of reading, as well as to boost comprehension, vocabulary and reading fluency levels. During the 30-minute session with a child, Catherine reads a book and completes a related activity using Focused Literacy Involvement Program ("FLIP") kits developed by the Children's Museum of Houston.

Catherine has been a Read Houston Read volunteer for a few years now. She goes above and beyond when working with Piney Point Elementary School's struggling readers. Although most Read Houston Read volunteers spend 30 minutes to an hour at a school, Catherine currently spends eight hours a week at Piney Point mentoring and inspiring children to become strong and life-long readers. Catherine first came across the program while searching for a volunteer opportunity after retirement. She discovered Read Houston Read to be a great way for her to give back to the community. She believes it is vital that children understand how important reading is in their lives.

Becoming a partner with the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation is a great way for your company to demonstrate to customers, employees, and the broader community that you care about the health of Houston. When your constituents see you giving back by making important and strategic investments through employee volunteer engagement and financial resources, they develop confidence that they are involved with a company that recognizes the value and significance of corporate social responsibility. Here are just a few of the many benefits of partnering with us:
  • Connecting your company with literacy-related volunteer programs: Our foundation has a growing network of more than 35 literacy partners -schools, libraries and nonprofit organizations - who need volunteers. Through our Connect4Literacy.org portal, we match your employees with service opportunities and volunteer-based reading programs that fit their schedules and passions.
  • Increasing visibility of your company's community investments: Corporate partners are featured on our Connect4Literacy.org portal and in our marketing and communications branding and distribution channels, as appropriate. Customers and investors, not to mention competitors, will take note that you link your business strategy and corporate social responsibility.
  • Stewarding your investment of resources: Your company's business interests are important to us. Thus, we connect your company with nonprofits and other community organizations to maximize return on your investments of time, money and in-kind donations.
Join our growing Community Partner Network. Contact Kime Smith, Director of Strategic Partnerships, at Kime@BushHoustonLiteracy.org or 346-212-2308 to learn more.