December 2016
First Lady Barbara Bush with
Foundation President Dr. Julie Baker Finck.
Dear Houston Community,

On behalf of First Lady Barbara Bush, Neil and Maria Bush, and the staff of the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation, please accept our sincere gratitude and appreciation for your support in advancing our important cause - literacy. We are incredibly grateful for your help in making 2016 an incredible year. Because of your generosity in giving of your time and financial resources, more children, adults, and families in Houston are gaining access to much-needed literacy services and resources. We look forward to sharing results of our efforts and the return on your investments in our upcoming annual report.

Although momentum is gaining across our city, more work must be done if we are going to break the intergenerational cycle of low-literacy and help more people realize their fullest potential in life through the power of literacy. We need your help. During this season of giving back, consider increasing your level of engagement with and support for the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation. Give time, give money, give books, or give your voice to the literacy cause. 

In the words of Mrs. Barbara Bush, "Believe in something larger than yourself...get involved in the big ideas of your time." Our vision is that Houston will be a city in which everyone has the requisite literacy skills needed for success in school, work and life. Everyone must be granted the right to learn how to read. Together, we can make this not only an idea or vision, but also a reality.

May God bless you and your family.


With warmest regards,

Julie Baker Finck, Ph.D.
Neil and Maria Bush stand alongside Mayor Turner and representatives from: Houston City Council,
 Phillips 66, 
Robert and Janice McNair Educational Foundation, Houston Public Library Foundation, 
and Renovation Houston.
Last week Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner held a press conference to announce Houston City Council's recent unanimous decision to rename the Central Houston Public Library Plaza to "Barbara Bush Literacy Plaza" to pay tribute to the legacy of First Lady Barbara Bush and her lifelong pursuit to break the intergenerational cycle of low literacy among families and help more people realize their fullest potential in life through the power of literacy. Mayor Turner remarked, "Literacy is essential. Period. Our elevated priority for literacy begins today ... The Barbara Bush Plaza will be a focal point for literacy in Houston. It will also be a reminder of what one person can do through a lifetime of support for a cause."
First Lady Barbara Bush with hostess Sue Smith.
Donatella Benckenstein and Mehrnaz Gill, Ladies for Literacy Co-Vice Presidents of Membership.
On Wednesday, November 2 nd , the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation's  Ladies for Literacy  guild held its first Membership Tea with First Lady Barbara Bush. Long-time supporters, Sue and Lester Smith, graciously hosted the event in their beautiful home. More than 175 Ladies for Literacy Guild members and invited guests gathered for a reception to enjoy light bites and beverages catered by Culinaire and music by Houston-based band, Moodafaruka .

Following the reception, members and guests convened in the Smith's ballroom to learn more about the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation from Dr. Julie Finck and the Ladies for Literacy Guild from Betty Hrncir, Guild President, including the guild's signature initiative, Curiosity Cruiser.

Mrs. Bush expressed her deep appreciation for the women involved in advancing the literacy effort, a cause that she has championed for more than 25 years. More than 50 women joined the Guild as a result of the Membership Tea, bringing total members to 240 since the auxiliary group was formed only one year ago.
First Lady Barbara Bush looks on as Neil and Maria Bush reveal author line-up.
President George H.W. and Barbara Bush, and Neil and Maria Bush hosted a special holiday reception and author reveal for the  2017 A Celebration of Reading event on Tuesday, December 6 th . The event was held at the beautiful home of Rhonda and Michael Graff, where 150 guests dressed in their holiday best enjoyed cocktails, beer, and wine, as well as hors d'oeuvres served by Jackson and Company. 

Neil Bush, co-chairman of the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation, opened the evening by expressing his gratitude to attendees for their continuous support of the Foundation and its mission to improve lives through the power of literacy. Then, Foundation president Dr. Julie Finck, extended gratitude to Greg and Gail Garland of Phillips 66 for serving as the title sponsor for A Celebration of Reading for the 3 rd year in a row, as well as Bill and Iris Griffiths of Quanex Foundation for serving as the events first-ever presenting sponsor.

Thereafter, Neil and Maria unveiled the highly-anticipated authors for the 2017 A Celebration of Reading. The author line-up includes New York Times bestselling authors Sue Grafton, author of X, Bill Browder, author of Red Notice and Jim Gaffigan, author of Food: A Love Story. The remainder of the evening was spent with guests celebrating the upcoming event and spreading holiday cheer!

Join us for the 23 rd annual A Celebration of Reading event to be held on April 20,2016 at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets, tables and sponsorships are available now.

We are excited to announce that the Early Matters Coalitions and the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation  are partnering with the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee on its Touchdown Houston Read On!  Initiative to achieve the following goals:

1.  Enlist community members to serve as tutors, coaches and/or mentors to striving readers in schools, libraries and nonprofits for at least 51,000 hours over a 10-month period.

2.  Create 5,100 personal home libraries for children living in public housing and other underserved communities across the Houston area.

Join our team in support of  Touchdown Houston Read On! Become a volunteer  or make a tax-deductible donation to sponsor a home library for a child in need for as little as $30. With your involvement, we will be closer to reaching our vision in which every Houston child reads on grade level by the end of third grade.

Thank you for helping to create a legacy of impact!

More than 60 members and guests of our Young Professionals Group (YPG) donned their tackiest holiday sweaters and gathered for the organization's 3rd annual Tacky Sweater Holiday Book Drive. During the festive and fun event held at the event venue Station 3, more than 6,000 books donated by members and purchased through proceeds from the YPG's recent Jungle Book Gala were bundled in bags as attendees socialized, ate, drank, and got into the spirit of the season by giving back to our community. The next day, the book bags were distributed to hundreds of disadvantaged, pre-school aged children served by one of our partner nonprofits, Kids' Meals, Inc. Additional mini-libraries packaged by the YPG will be distributed to low-income children during the holidays, totaling 1,000. 

Our YPG's mission is to engage young professionals in Houston's ongoing literacy crisis by creating opportunities for members to read, lead, and serve our next generation. Learn more about the Young Professionals Group and become a member.  

This holiday season add volunteering to your family traditions and pass on the value of service to your children. In this issue and at Connect4Literacy.Org you will find special volunteer opportunities we are hosting along with our literacy partners in the month of December. Included are family friendly events that welcome children 5 and up. These opportunities benefit our literacy partners Friends of the Houston Public Library, Books Between Kids, Children's Museum of Houston, iWRITE, Making it Better, Houston Public Library, and Kids' Meals. All of these organizations are working hard to improve the lives of Houstonians through the power of literacy. Be a part of the change today!

Children at Risk  recently published a new study to educate parents, policymakers, and the public about the  subsidized child care system in Texas which provides over $500 million per year for child care assistance to low-income working families. Texas is a state that fully supports early education by funding child care, parenting education and public Pre-K through 3rd grade, but not all eligible families are aware that a child care system is available. Quality early education has been proven to have positive benefits for children, especially those that come from low-income families, as it provides early education and eases a child's transition into Pre-K programs.

In the study, Children at Risk found that there is a need for increased awareness and understanding of child care subsidy dollars as well as a lack of agency coordination on early education data and early education programs. 

Read the executive summary from Children at Risk.