Columbus Zoo's Jack Hanna Named Verizon's Literacy Champion

Columbus Zoo's Jack Hanna Named Verizon's Literacy Champion

Company Gives $100,000 to OhioReads Foundation for Tutor Recognition, Recruitment Programs in State

June 6, 2002

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COLUMBUS, Ohio - Nationally known animal expert Jack Hanna today became an ambassador for literacy during a ceremony naming him Verizon's Literacy Champion.

"It's a jungle out there, and everybody needs to be able to read and write to survive," Jack Hanna, director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo, said during the event at the Ohio statehouse.

Hanna will join other celebrities who serve as Verizon Literacy Champions in communities across the country. The champions connect a familiar face to the cause, bring attention to the problem of low literacy and raise funds for literacy programs.

At today's event, Verizon Foundation also gave a $100,000 grant to the OhioReads Foundation to support tutor and student recognition and tutor recruitment programs in Ohio. In addition, Ohio Gov. Bob Taft and Todd Colquitt, president - Verizon Ohio, joined Hanna in unveiling a literacy poster that includes a likeness of the nationally known animal expert. Click here to see the poster featuring Jack Hanna. The poster will be distributed to students who complete Gov. Taft's Summer Reading Challenge by reading 20 books during the summer. They also will receive a certificate from the governor recognizing their achievement.

"The ability to read, write and communicate is the foundation for success in life," said Colquitt. "An educated, literate population is good for the health of the communities Verizon serves, the general economy and for Verizon as a major employer and provider of communications services in Ohio."

According to the National Adult Literacy Survey, 92 million Americans - almost 48 percent of the population - have very low or low literacy skills. In addition, 25 percent of adults in the U.S. cannot read a bedtime story to their children or help them with their schoolwork.

"We must improve our children's abilities to read, because it is the starting point for so much more - all future learning, holding a meaningful job, and contributing to the overall well-being of our communities," Gov. Taft said. "With programs like OhioReads and Verizon's Literacy Champion, we hope to work together to help more Ohio children do their best in reading."

Gov. Taft has made the OhioReads program his centerpiece education initiative. More than 100,000 students have received one-on-one tutoring from 40,000 OhioReads tutors across the state. Each week, Gov. Taft and First Lady Hope Taft tutor a student from Kent Elementary School in Columbus.

"Literacy is an important path to choose in life," Hanna said. "Being able to read and write gives you many options, from simply learning about lions and tigers when you visit the Columbus Zoo to reading to your children."

Verizon -- America's Literacy Champion

Verizon is committed to being America's Literacy Champion. Verizon gave nearly $20 million to literacy causes nationwide last year. The Verizon Literacy Champion program was established in 1999 and has raised millions of dollars for literacy programs across the country and created awareness about the importance of the cause.

Verizon customers can support literacy though the company's Check Into Literacy program. Customers are invited to donate $1 per month to Verizon Reads when they pay their phone bill. Verizon Reads distributes the funds to national and local literacy organizations across the country. Anyone may contribute to literacy by visiting Verizon's online directory, SuperPages.com, and clicking on Verizon Reads to make a contribution.

Verizon Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Verizon Communications, is committed to helping Verizon employees, customers and the communities in which they work and live make progress every day. The foundation supports a variety of programs that focus on improving basic and computer literacy, bridging the digital divide, enriching communities through technology and creating a skilled work force. The foundation promotes partnerships in technology with organizations serving the needs of diverse communities, people with disabilities, and the economically and socially disadvantaged. For more information on the foundation, visit www.verizon.com/foundation on the Internet.

Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) is one of the world's leading providers of communications services. Verizon companies are the largest providers of wireline and wireless communications in the United States, with 133.8 million access line equivalents and approximately 29.6 million wireless customers. Verizon is also the largest directory publisher in the world. With more than $67 billion in annual revenues and nearly 248,000 employees, Verizon's global presence extends to more than 40 countries in the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Pacific. For more information on Verizon, visit www.verizon.com.


Media contact:

Bruce Childs, Verizon



Fern Conte, OhioReads



Bill Kula, Verizon