JUNE 2016

Dr. Julie Baker Finck, Leanne Finck,
and Ron Finck

Last week I attended the high school graduation of my stepdaughter, Leanne. Like my family, many of you are celebrating graduations for family members, friends and colleagues. Seeing graduation photos shared on social media always brings a smile to my face and reminds me of how quickly time passes. Indeed, graduation is a joyous time to honor academic achievements.

Unfortunately, approximately one in four Houston adults has not earned a high school diploma or a GED. Whether a high school diploma, GED, associate's degree, bachelor's degree or graduate degree, we need more of our families experiencing the joy of graduation and the opportunities afforded them through reaching each education milestone. There are many things in life that can be taken away from us. Attainments in education are ours to keep forever. Join us in congratulating all graduates and thanking educators, mentors and tutors across our city for the tireless work they do to help prepare children and adults for success in life.


Julie Baker Finck, Ph.D. 
Bridging the Book Divide in our Community

Volunteers sorting books at the Friends of the Houston Public Library Warehouse.  
With help from members of the community and corporate partners, the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation distributed 38,000 books to children and low-income families across Houston during 2015. We are extremely grateful for the recent donation of over 1,200 books donated by students and staff at The Village School and employees of NEXT Financial Group, Inc. Because of their generosity, we were able to then provide two of our literacy partners, Making It Better and Friends of the Houston Public Library, with books to support their literacy programs. We are so thankful to the students and employees for being points of light in the literacy cause. We appreciate their efforts in helping us put more books into the hands of children and families across Houston who need them most.  
Partnership with CITGO and Bess the Book Bus, Inc.,
Brings Joy of Reading to Houston Children

Students at Woodview Elementary 
enjoying their new books. 
Last month the Foundation had the privilege of partnering with Citgo and Bess the Book Bus at Woodview Elementary in Spring Branch ISD to read aloud to over 150 Pre-K and kindergarten students. The students were also able to board Bess the Book Bus and choose a book to take home.

Bess the Book Bus, Inc., is a mobile literacy outreach nonprofit organization founded by Jennifer Frances in 2002 on one simple premise - bring the joy of reading to children everywhere. In 2015 the mobile library served over 25,000 children across 35 states.

Citgo hosted seven Bess the Book Bus visits throughout Houston from May 11-13, and we are honored to have partnered with two organizations that are deeply committed to literacy and the future of Houston. Through our partnership, every child took home two books to help build their home library. 
New Report Shows Texas Seems to be Two-Stepping Around
Early Childhood Education

The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) released its  The State of Preschool 2015 report. The good news is that enrollment, quality and funding for early childhood education increased at a national level. The bad news is that Texas "moved backwards." Specifically, Texas had a "significant" decrease in enrollment among 3-and 4-year olds."  
The Texas score on the quality of its early childhood education system was stagnant from previous years in which the state received only 2 out of 10 on the Quality Standards Checklist. In addition, Texas ranked 30 thamong the 50 states and the District of Columbia with respect to state funding level of early education, and it ranked 12 th and 10 th on early childhood education access for 3- and 4-year olds, respectively. While House Bill 4 recently adopted by the Texas Legislature provides an increase in funding for pre-kindergarten programs, funding is insufficient to systematically improve quality and increase access to these programs. Furthermore, the new funding is only currently a one-time earmark, preventing school districts from making a long-term commitment of resources needed to sustain programs.

Improving quality and increasing access to early childhood education in our state and in our community must be a priority if we are ever going to break the cycle of low literacy and poverty and ensure that we have a vibrant workforce and economy. We either pay for it now or pay even more for the ramifications later. The Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation is a proponent of high-quality early childhood education and is proud to be a member of the Early Matters Coalition
Volunteer Spotlight: Anne Amador 

Anne with Walnut Bend first-graders 
Tristan and Chancellor. 

Meet Anne Amador, the Read Houston Read Face-to-face Volunteer of the Year. Read Houston Read is an HISD program in which all volunteers spend 30 minutes each week with first-and second-grade children to help them learn how to read.

Anne was honored at the Read Houston Read Volunteer Appreciation Breakfast held at the Children's Museum of Houston on May 6. For two years, Anne has been mentoring children at Walnut Bend Elementary School.

Asked why she feels so dedicated to the Read Houston Read mission, Anne stated: "When the children I mentored this year started reading English, it impressed me how difficult our language is to learn. Their improvement week after week and developing comfort with the language is really inspiring to me. I envy their bilingual abilities and it's truly just a pleasure to come see them every week."

Congratulations and many thanks to Anne for her commitment to volunteerism and the Read Houston Read initiative! You can become a Read Houston Read mentor this summer by signing up to serve at Connect4Literacy.org

Lizzie Andrews to Chair 2016 Jungle Book Gala

Lizzie Andrews with Neil, Maria, and Pierce Bush at the
2015 Jungle Book Gala.

We are excited to announce that Lizzie Andrews is the chair of the 2016 Jungle Book Gala hosted by the Young Professionals Group of the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation. Lizzie was an attendee at last year's inaugural event and couldn't wait to get her feet wet and jump right in to help plan this year's event. "I am so excited to take on this new role! This event is such a fun way to increase awareness about Houston's literacy crisis, especially for millennials searching to get involved. I am looking forward to helping out and making this year's Jungle Book Gala an event you are not going to want to miss!"

Lizzie is no stranger to literacy and the Foundation. Her grandmother, Barbara Bush, has instilled in her the importance of reading. Lizzie can't help but be inspired by her grandmother and counts Mrs. Bush's amazing literacy legacy as one of the many blessings in her life.