WASHINGTON -- Legendary jazz performer Al Jarreau will entertain a group of youngsters and their parents today, not in a concert hall but in a Washington, D.C. public library. And, he may not sing a single note.
The Grammy Award-winning singer instead will read to families who live near the Washington Highlands Library in the Southwest part of the district. The event marks the start of "Season's Readings," an annual book drive and reading campaign involving nearly 240,000 Verizon employees across the country.
Jarreau is in the Washington metropolitan area this week in his role as Verizon's National Literacy Champion.
"I have been supporting the fight for better literacy skills since the 1960s when I was in college," said Jarreau. "Children who have a special interest like music can use reading to learn about great musicians and to develop their own talents. Developing a love for something makes reading about it second nature."
Marie Johns, president of Verizon Washington, D.C., will introduce the jazz great to the audience of about 250 children and their families.
"It's perfect that Mr. Jarreau can launch Verizon's national Season's Readings campaign here in the Nation's Capital," said Johns. "Our employees will donate tens of thousands of books across the country that in turn will be given to local literacy centers, libraries, schools and other organizations. Verizon employees are very generous with their charitable giving, and I am sure our 2002 Season's Readings campaign will be a huge success."
Carolyn Graham, District of Columbia deputy mayor for Children, Youth, Families and Elders, said, "We are keenly aware of the important role good reading skills play in helping our families succeed. Verizon has been a leading partner in literacy here in the district through its significant financial and employee volunteer support. And Al Jarreau's presence today is a tremendous boost to raising awareness about literacy."
The D.C. Public Libraries and Washington D.C. Reads -- a literacy awareness program of D.C. LEARNS and its coalition of 42 area literacy agencies -- are staging today's event. Mary Rafael, director of D.C. Public Libraries, said, "Whenever literacy and reading needs to be emphasized by our libraries, it seems Verizon is there championing the cause. We deeply appreciate this book drive effort, but recognize it as a part of the on-going reading and literacy programs brought to our citizens by Verizon. Their corporate commitment is making a difference here in the District, and I congratulate them for their initiative."
To promote the importance of reading aloud to children, Verizon also released a suggested reading list entitled Verizon Season's Readings Ten Great Holiday Books to Read to Your Kids, developed by the National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL). The list is featured this year within the "Holiday Pages" on Verizon's SuperPages.com
Also announced today were the NCFL's Tips and Recommendations for Reading to Your Children and a list of 15 children's books that are excellent for year-round reading.
The reading tips are separated into three age categories -- birth to toddlers, three to five years, and six to eight years (beginning readers).
"Books and stories can be significant components of holiday traditions. Knowing firsthand how important it is to foster the tradition of reading, I encourage families to embrace the joy of literacy during the holiday season, by reading with one another or donating books to the Season's Readings Campaign," said Sharon Darling, president and founder of NCFL. "I am proud to participate in Verizon's efforts in collecting books for families in need."
The tips for reading aloud and the holiday and age-specific book lists can serve as a catalyst for parents, grandparents, siblings and others in emphasizing the importance of developing literacy skills in young people. The lists also are helpful when choosing book titles for holiday gifts.
All Verizon employees will receive a copy of the NCFL lists and tips to assist them in selecting a book to donate and in fulfilling their read-aloud pledge.
Verizon Season's Readings program is partnering with Scholastic Inc., the largest children's book publisher and distributor in the world. Verizon employees can purchase Scholastic's children's books at their work locations and donate them as part of the reading campaign to literacy organizations and schools.
Season's Readings is part of Verizon's overall commitment to leading the effort to increase U.S. literacy levels. Through its signature Verizon Reads program and the Verizon Literacy Network, the company works to increase community and corporate awareness, raise funds, encourage collaboration among literacy providers and engage employees in supporting literacy programs. For more information on Verizon Reads, visit www.verizonreads.net.
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 135.0 million access line equivalents and 31.5 million Verizon Wireless customers. Verizon is also the largest directory publisher in the world. With more than $67 billion in annual revenues and more than 236,000 employees, Verizon's global presence extends to more than 35 countries in the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Pacific. For more information on Verizon, visit www.verizon.com.