James Earl Jones Helps Verizon Ring In Holidays With 'Season's Readings' Campaign in D.C.

WASHINGTON -- Verizon, America's literacy champion, today launched the Washington area kickoff of its "Season's Readings" national employee book drive and reading campaign with a reading by actor James Earl Jones to a group of children at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library.

At the event, Verizon also announced a $100,000 grant to DC LEARNS, a coalition of 42 literacy organizations in Washington.

The centerpiece of Season's Readings is a book drive and a read-aloud pledge campaign involving Verizon employees and the Verizon Telephone Pioneers, a service organization of employees and retirees. Verizon is encouraging its 256,000 employees nationwide to donate a new or gently used book to the campaign and to pledge that they will read aloud to a child during the holiday season and throughout the coming year.

"I expect all our employees in the Washington metropolitan area to play an active role in Season's Readings," said Marie C. Johns, president of Verizon Washington, D.C. "Whether it's through a donation of a book or a donation of time, our active and retired employees can make a significant difference for the children in the communities we serve."

Actor James Earl Jones, the national "Voice of Verizon," promoted the Season's Readings campaign by reading "Rocking Horse Christmas" to 100 first- through fourth-graders from the Immaculate Conception School and Roots Charter School.

DC LEARNS will use Verizon's $100,000 contribution to enhance outreach and increase enrollments in literacy programs, build public recognition of the District's literacy challenges and cultivate additional corporate and individual support for literacy organizations.

"DC LEARNS has found a valuable partner in Verizon," said Dr. Sharon Morgenthaler, president of DC LEARNS. "Verizon's support is helping DC LEARNS and its 42 member organizations address literacy needs in unprecedented ways through enhanced outreach and marketing, raising public awareness and attracting other significant donors."

To emphasize the importance of reading aloud to children, Verizon has released the Verizon Season's Readings Ten Great Holiday Books to Read to Your Kids developed by the National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL). NCFL also has provided Tips and Recommendations for Reading to Your Children and a list of 15 children's books that are excellent for year-round reading.

Both the reading tips and the book list are separated into three age categories -- birth to toddlers, three to five years, and six to eight years. More information about NCFL's lists and tips is available at www.verizonreads.net.

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. These also make for a helpful guide 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.

The Verizon Season's Readings program is partnering with Scholastic Inc., the largest children's book publisher and distributor in the world. Verizon employees will be able to purchase Scholastic's children's books at designated work locations and donate them as part of the reading campaign to literacy organizations and schools.

The Verizon Pioneers play a key role in Verizon's literacy programs. The organization is coordinating various book collection locations and recruiting volunteers for the Season's Readings program. And the Pioneers have a long-standing record of literacy support through their "Book 'Em" program, in which Pioneers purchase new books for schools, and by serving as reading volunteers in schools.

Season's Readings is part of Verizon's commitment to leading the effort to increase U.S. literacy levels. Through its signature Verizon Reads program and the Verizon Literacy Network, Verizon 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.

DC LEARNS, a coalition of 42 local organizations, works to build capacity and effectiveness of adult, family and children's literacy services in Washington, D.C.; mobilize resources to support improvement in literacy and reading skills, and advocate effective public policy to benefit District residents at the lowest level of literacy and the organizations that serve them.

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 128.5 million access line equivalents and 28.7 million wireless customers. Verizon is also the largest directory publisher in the world. A Fortune 10 company with 256,000 employees and approximately $65 billion in annual revenues, 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.