January 2018
Dear Houston Community ,

Because of your generosity, last year was an incredible year. We accomplished many great things, such as providing 12,000 children with their very own home library through the new My Home Library initiative, creating the Curiosity Cruiser mobile library through our fabulous Ladies for Literacy Guild, partnering with local and national organizations to provide resources and support to schools and libraries impacted by Hurricane Harvey; investing more than $1.5 million in literacy programs and services to serve those in need; and mobilizing thousands of volunteers in service to the literacy cause. Together, we are empowering more people with the tools and resources they need to learn how to read and have a bright future.

I am proud of what we achieved in 2017 and am very excited about 2018. We have an amazing line-up of authors for the 24th annual A Celebration of Reading event and ambitious strategic plans to expand evidence-based literacy programs, deepen our engagement and support in high-need neighborhoods, foster new partnerships that help build capacity for vital literacy services in our city, and increase engagement of the community in meaningful ways to support the literacy cause.

Your continued support this year is even more important than ever. A literacy movement is occurring across our city and a strong foundation for ongoing success is being built. Resolve this year to get more involved in the literacy cause as an advocate, volunteer or donor.

Let's ensure that 2018 is a year to remember by coming together to change lives and our community through the power of literacy. Thank you for your unwavering support in advancing our mission and the legacy of First Lady Barbara Bush.

Happy New Year!


Julie Baker Finck, Ph.D.

My mom is fondly known as the "First Lady of Literacy." She has been a champion for the literacy cause across the country for nearly three decades while in the White House and subsequently through her national organization, the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy.

Barbara Bush has always understood that learning begins and is reinforced at home with parents being the child's first and most important teachers. Although we didn't directly discuss the topic of literacy in our home while growing up, Mom created an environment in our house that valued, fostered, and modeled strong literacy development for my siblings and me. She frequently read to us, spoke to us using words that developed early vocabulary, and encouraged us to speak what was on our minds in clear sentences and to always write thank-you notes.

Having strong parental engagement in the learning and development of a child has always been a priority and focus of my mother in our home, as First Lady of the United States, and throughout her life. Mom's national foundation has supported family literacy programs in all fifty states, because she realizes that low literacy is intergenerational and that breaking the cycle of low literacy requires a focus on family literacy.

In an international study of more than 42 countries, researchers found that the number of books in the home of children was significantly related to their academic achievement levels. Furthermore, when children have choice in which books they read, they are 90% more likely to finish the book in its entirety, read for pleasure, and become readers later in life. Although books are essential tools for reading success, for many children in Houston, they are a luxury that their families simply cannot afford.
We are proud to announce that 12,000 children across Houston received home libraries of their choice during 2017, the inaugural year of the My Home Library program. We are incredibly grateful to our donors and corporate partners who have generously dedicated resources to fill this critical void in the lives of children and their families. Together we can equip and inspire children to be proficient and life-long readers and learners.
"By implementing evidenced-based practices and mobilizing the community in action, we will undoubtedly improve literacy rates across our city," said Neil Bush, co-chairman of the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation. "Placing books in the hands of children in need through the My Home Library program is a critical strategy towards reaching our goals."
Kime Smith, Director of Strategic Partnerships, assists child in choosing books.
"Spring Branch ISD is immensely grateful to the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation, Air Liquide and all the generous donors and volunteers who have made the gift of books possible for thousands of our students," said Scott Muri, Superintendent of Spring Branch ISD. "For many of our students, these may be the first books they can truly call their own. For others, the opportunity to replenish their home libraries lost in Harvey-related flooding has been so meaningful."
Help us reach our goal of 25,000 children served in 2018. With your $30 tax-deductible donation, a child can receive 6 brand new books of his or her choice. 

Four years ago, we joined Phillips 66 and Wayne Duddlesten Foundation to launch Read Houston Read, a mentoring program for first-graders, in the Houston Independent School District. Read Houston Read is one of the district's strategy under its Literacy By 3 Initiative to ensure that every student reads at or above grade level by the end of the third grade. The program involves community and business volunteers who use effective read-aloud strategies in person with a child using resources created by the Children's Museum of Houston or online using a web-based tool from Innovations for Learning. Since its inception, the program has been expanded to include financial literacy resources funded by PricewaterhouseCoopers and been implemented at more schools. For the 2016-2017 school year, more than 3,000 students across 73 elementary schools participated in the Read Houston Read program.

In a recent evaluation of the Read Houston Read program conducted by HISD's Office of Research and Accountability, results showed that the Read Houston Read program had positive impact on students' reading levels based on their performance on reading assessments administered at the beginning, middle and end of the school year. Specifically, there was an increase in the percentage of students who met expected or advanced development reading levels using both the in-person and virtual modalities of the program. Another key finding of the study was that more English students who engaged with a mentor in person and more Spanish students who engaged with a mentor online showed reading gains than their respective peers who did not have a Read Houston Read mentor. Read the full study to learn more.

We are proud to support the Read Houston Read program and encourage you to become a mentor to a first-grader who is striving to become a great reader. It only takes 30 minutes once a week, training is provided, and the resources are readily available and easy to use! This year, resolve to help a child learn how to read. Sign up to become a Read Houston Read mentor today .


Just a few short months ago, HISD's Kolter Elementary School in the Meyerland neighborhood of Houston was flooded by Hurricane Harvey and the more than 650 students and staff were relocated to a smaller facility in the former Gordon Elementary School building in Bellaire. Amid the difficult circumstances, students received a special visit from the Curiosity Cruiser and mascots Owlbotron and Northtale just in time for the holidays.

The morning began with a special reading assembly led by the Ladies for Literacy Guild for more than 100 second-graders. Principal Julia Dickenson kicked off the program by introducing Dr. Finck to welcome kids and get them excited about reading. When Dr. Finck asked the children why they thought reading was so important, the astute second-graders quickly raised their hands to offer more than a dozen answers, including the following: reading helps you use your imagination; reading helps you pass time; reading helps you learn new things; and reading gives you super powers. The entire cafetorium of students and adults erupted in cheers and clapping as each response was given.

Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis addressed the students and read a resolution praising the Ladies for Literacy Guild for donating the Curiosity Cruiser to the Harris County Public Library and providing more opportunities for children across our community to have access to exciting reading programs and books.

Students then were captivated by special book readings from Guild founding members Trish Morille and Stephanie Tsuru before being escorted outside by mascots Owlbotron and Northtale to board the Curiosity Cruiser mobile library. Every student chose a book to keep and received special items, including a poster of the mascots, a rubber bracelet and pencil branded with "Reading is my super power," and a Curiosity Cruiser sticker which doubled as a bookmark. Everyone, children and adults, were all smiles!
Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis issues resolution honoring the Ladies for Literacy Guild and the Curiosity Cruiser. 
Kolter E.S. second-grader selects books from the Curiosity Cruiser during school visit. 

Photo Credit: Hung Truong Photography

A new year has begun, yet the impact of the Hurricane Harvey still looms. The storm not only devastated homes, libraries and schools, but also our licensed childcare system of which there are 1,400 providers in the Greater Houston area serving approximately  100,000 children. Based on assessments conducted by Collaborative for Children, child care providers across Greater Houston suffered significant damage and interrupted services for many families with infants and toddlers. Licensed child care centers are ineligible for FEMA resources, so getting them back up and running can be an incredible challenge.
In the wake of the hurricane, Save the Children, a global nonprofit that helps ensure children are healthy, educated, and protected, acted quickly to provide the city's shelters with the necessary equipment and services to keep children safe. Among other things, Save the Children emergency response teams delivered essential supplies to families including cribs, strollers, changing tables, baby shampoo, diapers and baby-safe portable tubs; set up child-friendly spaces in shelters where kids played and learned while parents managed their family's emergency needs; and provided specially trained staff to help children cope with the emotional trauma as a result of the disaster.


Bob Patel, Chief Executive Officer of LyondellBasell, presented Communities in Schools-Bay Area and the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation each a check in the amount of $25,000 during the company's holiday celebration last month. "At LyondellBasell, we believe in advancing education and being a responsible, good neighbor in the communities where we operate," said Patel. "These contributions will have a significant and positive impact on the children served by Communities in Schools-Bay Area and the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation, many of whom lost their personal belongings and books because of Hurricane Harvey. We are proud to partner with two outstanding organizations who make a meaningful difference in the lives of children every day."

The gift from LyondellBasell will provide every child at Kenneth E. Little Elementary School in Dickinson Independent School District with a home library of six books of their choice through our My Home Library program. Research shows that when children have access to books in their home and choice in what books they read, they read more frequently and achieve at higher academic levels. The return on LyondellBasell's investment will indeed yield excitement from children and academic gains. 

From left to right: Mercedes Landry, Kime Smith, Julie Finck,
Kristen Stubbs and Bob Patel.

Visit http://www.myhomelibraryhouston.org/sponsors to see other companies who are investing in the future of our children.


Students at Meadow Wood Elementary School in Spring Branch ISD picking Harry Moon series books during
My Home Library build event.
The Foundation is working alongside Houston's iconic philanthropist and businessman, Jim 'Mattress Mack' McIngvale, and Rabbit Publishers best-selling series, Harry Moon, in placing stories that celebrate goodness to elementary and middle school children in Houston and its surrounding area.

"A child's life can change in an instant through the power of a good story," said Harry Moon author Mark Andrew Poe.  "We are so proud to have been chosen to inspire Houston's children and partner with the Foundation to give more children the gift of reading."

Using goodness as their weapon of choice, the Harry Moon series encourages children to become heroes in their own communities, accepting the differences of others and cultivating kind behavior. The interior book design facilitates the unique dyslexic and special needs readers as well.

We are thrilled to provide children participating in the My Home Library program access to the engaging stories in the Harry Moon series and are grateful to Rabbit Publishers for their partnership and commitment to children in our city.


YPG Executive Committee members at 4th annual
Tacky Sweater Book Wrapping Party at Station 3.

Members of our  Young Professionals Group (YPG) donned their tackiest holiday sweaters and gathered for their 4 th annual Tacky Sweater Book Wrapping Party. During the festive and fun event held at the Station 3, members bagged more than 7,200 brand new books purchased through proceeds from this year's Jungle Book Gala as they socialized, sipped drinks and shared the spirit of the season.

Following the event, the home libraries were distributed to more than 1,200 preschool-aged children attending The Panda Path School, and The Lion Lane School in Spring Branch ISD, Small Steps Nurturing Center and those served by Kids' Meals, Inc.

"Our sold-out Jungle Book Gala enabled the Young Professionals Group to give the gift of literacy to even more children in need this holiday season," said Morgan Relyea Colt, YPG Chair. "It is truly wonderful to see so many young professionals uniting in support of the literacy cause, giving back both their time and their financial resources, to make a difference in our city."

Join us on January 20th for our next Young Professionals Group service event. Learn more and sign up here.

This past Spring, we announced that the Corporation for National and Community Service awarded the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation, in partnership with the OneStar Foundation, a three-year grant to fund a team of AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) to accelerate our efforts across Houston and plan for long-term sustainability of literacy programs and services. Through AmeriCorps VISTA, members bring their passion and perseverance where the need is greatest: to organizations that help eradicate poverty. One great strategy to break the cycle of poverty is to break the intergenerational cycle of low literacy.

The grant provides the Foundation with a team of AmeriCorps VISTAs focused on expanding the My Home Library program, supporting the Curiosity Cruiser mobile library initiative and building capacity for other priority initiatives. The team works collaboratively to design curricula, coordinate and execute logistics, develop web-based tools, and raise awareness to advance our mission.

Beth Horner is the Development VISTA, Marina Khalid and Olivia Anne Lewis are our Program Management VISTAs, Mercedes Landry is the Literacy Awareness Campaign VISTA, Brooke Wages is the Operations VISTA, Shalethia Jones is the Web Solutions VISTA, and Cameron Zein-Eldin is the Program Curriculum VISTA. We are very grateful that these AmeriCorps VISTA members have dedicated a year to serve as a catalyst for change, living and working alongside community members to advance local solutions.