Jazz Great Al Jarreau Encourages North Central Philly First-Graders to Read

PHILADELPHIA -- Al Jarreau thoroughly entertained a group of first-grade students from People for People Charter School in North Central Philadelphia today -- without singing a note. The Grammy-Award winning singer instead read the children a story, "Charlie Parker Played Be Bop."

Jarreau, who is visiting the Philadelphia area in his role as Verizon's national Literacy Champion, also helped celebrate a grant presentation of $25,000 from Verizon Foundation to People for People, a community education and development organization that is launching the Verizon Little e-Literacy Computer Lab. The lab will help children in pre-school through second grade improve their reading.

Research indicates that if students can't read well by the end of third grade, their chances of success later on are greatly diminished, and that they face a greater likelihood of delinquent behavior and dropping out of school.

"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 a great musician like Charlie Parker. Developing a love for something makes reading about it second nature."

Daniel J. Whelan, president and CEO, Verizon Pennsylvania, said, "Today's celebration with Al Jarreau, People for People, Verizon and all these students is inspirational. We share a vision for literacy improvement, strong involvement in our communities and initiatives that strengthen our future workforce."

People for People will use Verizon Foundation's grant to purchase computers and software created specifically for pre-school students.

Herbert H. Lusk, II, president and CEO, People for People, said, "e-Literacy is the road to success, which bypasses all barriers. I am very excited about the possibilities this e-Commerce site presents."

People for People, Inc., is a nonprofit organization founded by Lusk to promote economic development, education and entrepreneurship within North Central Philadelphia. For more information on People for People, visit www.peopleforpeople.org.

Through the Verizon Literacy Champion program, Verizon partners with celebrities like Jarreau who donate their image and time to help raise awareness of and funds to solve the critical problem of low literacy in the U.S. The program is part of Verizon Reads, the company's signature philanthropy effort. Verizon, Verizon Foundation and a variety of "Reads" organizations support nearly 1,000 literacy programs in 31 states and Washington, D.C. through partnerships with local literacy providers. For more information on Verizon Reads, visit www.verizonreads.net.

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. The foundation also supports Verizon Volunteers, an incentive program that encourages Verizon employees to volunteer in their communities and provides matching gifts to nonprofit organizations. For more information on the foundation, visit www.verizon.com/foundation.

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 approximately 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.