Bryan/College Station Literacy Levels Targeted by Verizon Grant

COLLEGE STATION, Texas - Improving the level of literacy in Bryan/College Station is the target of a $140,000 grant from Verizon Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Verizon Communications. The grant will be used to enhance reading instruction in high schools and to encourage parents to get involved in their young children's reading development.

The grant, to be presented to Texas A&M University today, supports the university's Master Reading Teachers training program and the Brighter Horizons in Early Literacy project.

"By supporting programs that improve reading instruction and childhood literacy, we can help to create a more literate, better-educated society that in turn leads to a stronger local economy," said Steve Banta, Verizon Southwest Region president. "These grants will help teachers obtain additional training to improve local literacy rates among students and help parents reinforce the reading instruction their young children receive from local childcare workers."

"The College of Education and Human Development is grateful for the continued support of the Verizon Foundation," said Jane Close Conoley, dean of the college. "The funds accepted today by Texas A&M President Robert Gates will be used to build and enhance programs that have a direct impact on the children in our state."

Twenty local teachers will participate in the Master Reading Teacher training program under which they will take four enhanced literacy training courses at Texas A&M this summer and fall. In addition, the teachers will participate in a full semester practicum in their own classrooms this fall and then take a certification exam. The Verizon funding provides teachers with a stipend to cover the cost of tuition, fees and books.

The 75th Texas Legislature established the Master Reading Teacher program to address the need for higher reading scores on Texas TAAS (Texas Assessment of Academic Skills) tests. In 2002, nearly 90 percent of all Texas students successfully passed the reading section on the TAAS test. However, that same year, only two school districts in the Brazos Valley exceeded the state average pass rate.

The Brighter Horizons in Early Literacy project, now in its third year, is a collaborative effort among Texas A&M University, Blinn College, the Texas Workforce Commission Child Care Management Services and Verizon.

In the project's first two years, more than 800 infants and toddlers participated in language enrichment activities that are expected to enhance their ability to learn to read. Verizon's financial support has helped to train more than 100 day care teachers, place more than 2,000 books in day care center classrooms, construct training modules for teachers, and recruit and train seven doctoral students to administer assessment tests for the program. During the third year of the project, Verizon funding will focus on improving literacy rates among children under five years old. Specifically, programs will be established to engage more fully the parents of young children to encourage them to spend more time at home cultivating their children's reading skills.

Verizon Foundation last year awarded 22,000 grants totaling more than $70 million. The foundation uses its resources in the United States and abroad to develop partnerships in technology and connect them with organizations serving the needs of diverse communities, people with disabilities, victims of domestic violence and the economically and socially disadvantaged.

The foundation also supports Verizon Volunteers, an incentive program that last year encouraged Verizon employees to volunteer more than 500,000 hours in their communities and provided $27.8 million in combined contributions to charitable and nonprofit organizations. For more information on the foundation, visit www.verizon.com/foundation.

A Fortune 10 company, Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) is one of the world's leading providers of communications services, with approximately $67 billion in revenues and 221,000 employees. Verizon companies are the largest providers of wireline and wireless communications in the United States, with 137.6 million access line equivalents and 34.6 million Verizon Wireless customers. Verizon is the third largest long-distance carrier for U.S. consumers, with 14.6 million long-distance lines. The company is also the largest directory publisher in the world, as measured by directory titles and circulation. Verizon's international presence includes wireline and wireless communications operations and investments, primarily in the Americas and Europe. For more information, visit www.verizon.com.