March 2018
Dear Houston Community,

Dr. Julie Finck reads aloud to children at
Small Steps Nurturing Center.
While there is no vaccination against low literacy when a child is born, there is substantial research on the need for this vital prescription to be issued to families: Read aloud for at least 15 minutes or more every day with your child from birth through elementary school. This month is National Read Aloud Month, so we have partnered with organizations across Houston to spread this important message to families.

Research shows that reading aloud is the single most important activity parents, grandparents, childcare providers, and teachers can engage in with a child to develop critical, early language and foundational skills for learning how to read, such as building vocabulary and comprehension and letter recognition. Access to books in the home is particularly important as books expose children to words and concepts uncommon in conversations or digital media.

Reading aloud also stimulates brain activity. During the first three years of life, a child's brain makes trillions of connections, the fastest it will ever grow. In fact, by age 4, a child's brain has reached 80 percent of its mature size. This is a crucial time for teaching and learning. Unfortunately, fewer than half of children age five and under are read to aloud each day. Moreover, according to YouGov, a startling 65% of parents say they stop reading aloud daily once their child reaches school age (six to eight). I f children lack foundational reading skills when they enter school, then they are at risk of needing costly interventions and special education services, being chronically absent, dropping out of school, becoming pregnant as a teen, and being incarcerated as a youth - all of which affect the ongoing cycles of poverty and dependency.

Help us celebrate National Read Aloud Month by doing one or more of the following things: (1) spread the word about the importance of reading aloud 15 minutes each by sharing this article with friends and family; (2) sign up to be a read aloud volunteer at a school, library or nonprofit near you at; and (3) sponsor a child's home library through our My Home Library initiative to ensure he/she has the right tools (i.e., books) for reading success.

With warm regards,

Julie Baker Finck, Ph.D.

We are in full swing with our My Home Library program for the spring! Our goal is to serve 15,000 students this school term. To effectively serve this many students, we will host two book sorts. Our first Big Awesome Book Sort will be March 23rd and March 24th. Books will be sorted for over 4,000 students, which makes it our largest book sort event that we have ever done.

On Friday, March 23rd, volunteer duties will include unloading and sorting the books on the tables. The first shift is 9:30am-12:30pm and the second shift is 1:00pm-4:00pm.
Sign Up!

On Saturday, March 24th, volunteer duties will be sorting over 20,000 books into bags for children. The first shift is 9:00am-12:00pm and the second shift is 12:30pm-3:30pm. Sign Up!

Help us make a difference in a child's life by spreading literacy across Houston!


The Ladies for Literacy Guild kicked off their 2nd Annual Community Book Drive with a rally at St. Anne Catholic School. Even the gloomy weather could not dampen the turnout for the February 22nd event with more than 300 parents and children in attendance. The community was excited to see the Curiosity Cruiser and mascots Northtale and Owlbotron. KPRC 2 Anchor, Rachel McNeil, joined us as well as our founders and co-chairs, Neil and Maria Bush.

Barnes and Noble generously held a Book Fair on Saturday, February 24th. Ladies for Literacy members were on-hand to distribute information to store patrons; the Curiosity Cruiser was onsite with doors open to children and their families; and a portion of all proceeds from purchases made at the store will be donated to purchase books to help stock the Curiosity Cruiser and equip more disadvantaged children will books.

Learn more about the Community Book Drive and visit our Facebook page to see more photos from these and other events.

Neil and Maria Bush interact with children during the Community Book Drive Rally.

Guild Members Rosie Damgaard, Carol Sawyer and Ginny Endicott with Northtale at
Barnes & Noble Book Fair Event.

The Gad family with Northtale and Owlbotron
at Community Book Drive Rally.

Guild President, Stephanie Tsuru, helps child select a book from the Curiosity Cruiser.

Nearly 3 out of 4 children in HISD are economically disadvantaged based on their family's level of income. 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. In fact, books in the home are a key factor in determining future success and mitigating setbacks in reading achievement evidenced during summer months. We 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. Since the launch of My Home Library last year, the program has provided home libraries for over 12,000 students through help from supporters just like you. 

There are 2,000 students attending Blackshear, Hartsfield, Burrus, and Highland Heights Elementary schools who are needing a sponsor for their home library. You can sponsor  a child today with your $30 tax-deductible donation by visiting . Help make a child's wish to have their very own home library come true. Your support is deeply appreciated.


Our Young Professionals Group will be volunteering on Saturday, March 24th from 10:00 am to noon at Piney Point Elementary in HISD. They will be reading to more than 20 classrooms of students in grades 1st through 5th in recognition of National Read Aloud Month. This is going to be a fun time to make a difference in the lives of Houston's children. There are limited spaces available, so sign up today!


With practical powers and good hearts, the Curiosity Cruiser mascots, Owlbotron and Northtale are a fighting-for-literacy duo, aiming to increase literacy rates in Harris County. Strong and full of goodwill, Owlbotron seeks to bring knowledge and power into children's lives through the power of reading. But he wasn't always this strong. Behind his impressive height, robot armor, and ability to fly, lies a young boy named Oliver with a set of struggles shared by many other children. But one fateful day, the wise Northtale, after seeing Ollie's struggles, guided him to just the right book, meant only for him-and he was forever changed. Since then, Owlbotron and Northtale are a team, together using their special powers to help children across Houston overcome their own struggles and develop stronger levels of self-confidence and skills to achieve their big dreams.

Northtale on t he other hand, is dedicated to fulfilling the potential she sees in children, equipping them with the literary tools they need to open doors, discover talents, and dream bigger. And as the primary driver of the Curiosity Cruiser, she always knows exactly where to find them. While Northtale's origins remain a mystery, her excellent instincts and problem-solving skills are on full display in every mission. After all, while some simply saw Ollie struggling in school, she saw the true power inside him. And thanks to her background in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), her ability to engineer gadgets with nearby resources is invaluable in their shared quest to spread new opportunities and the joy of reading to children around Houston!

This upcoming month the Curiosity Cruiser will be making several momentous stops, including an appearance at the Houston Rockets game on March 30th! Be sure to stay tuned and visit for upcoming events.


We wish to congratulate and welcome the new officers for our incredible Young Professionals Group (YPG): Victoria Villarreal, chair; Alexa Bode, chair-elect; Stephanie Wilson and Hunter Hasselbrock, membership co-chairs; Carley Colton and Clark Fiedler, service co-chairs; Raquel Gonzalez and Michael Perkins, social co-chairs; Grace Gosnell and Marvin Pierre, partnerships co-chairs; and Melissa McDaniel and Chris Stockton, communications co-chairs. Created in 2014, the Young Professionals Group's mission is to read, lead and serve the next generation through the power of literacy. This dynamic group of young leaders forming the Executive Leadership Team are going to take the growing organization of more than 150 members to new heights during the 2018 year.

Signature initiatives of the YPG include the annual Jungle Book Gala, a small-group mentoring program at Treasure Forest Elementary School, and the Tacky Sweater Book Wrapping event which provided home libraries for more than 1,200 pre-school children, along with bi-monthly service and networking events. Learn more and become a member of our Young Professionals Group here

From left to right: Marvin Pierre, Michael Perkins, Clark Fiedler,
Carley Colton, Alexa Bode, Victoria Villarreal, Melissa McDaniel,
Grace Gosnell, Chris Stockton, Stephanie Wilson.

Our first Literacy Partner Network meeting of 2018 was a success! Twenty of our literacy partners were represented. The keynote was delivered by Dr. Michelle Burke of Houston Independent School District. Her presentation was about HISD's Family and Community Empowerment (FACE) program, where she serves as the director. The FACE program is dedicated to building intentional partnerships to advance student achievement by promoting a welcoming environment, honoring families, and linking activities to learning. After the keynote, the partners had breakout sessions. The four topics that were covered were community engagement, parent/family engagement, adult literacy, and professional development. The partners had the chance to have casual dialogue with each other and share ideas to improve their organization. We are excited about the next meeting!


From left to right: Dr. Richard Carranza, HISD Superintendent, Jose Calvillo, Foundation Director of Operations,
Mamie Garcia, LULAC Council President,
Dr. Julie Finck, Foundation President,
Jose Antonio Diaz, Diaz Music Institute Founder,
and Hugo Mojica, LULAC Gala Chair

We are grateful to the League of United Latin American Citizens ("LULAC") Education Council 402 for honoring us as "Partner in Education for 2018" at their 18th Annual Gala for our impact in the community. We also wish to congratulate honorees Nina Perales and Jose Antonio Diaz for their extraordinary leadership. Established 89 years ago, LULAC's mission is to advance the economic condition, educational attainment, political influence, health and civil rights of the Hispanic population. We are proud to partner with LULAC to help more children and families in Houston have the foundational literacy skills for life-long success.


We are proud to partner with Houston CityBook for their CityBook Cares program. This incredible, philanthropic-minded publication will donate all of the net proceeds from subscription sales -- $30 of every $40 annual subscription sold - to the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation. Houston CityBook is a hybrid of an upscale lifestyle magazine and a more traditional magazine, with topics ranging from fashion, dining, art, and society to stories on entrepreneurship, innovation and more. Click below  to subscribe and select our organization as your charity of choice.