Tiki, Ronde Barber Named Verizon Literacy Champions for Virginia

RICHMOND, Va. - Verizon and the Virginia Literacy Foundation today named Tiki and Ronde Barber as literacy champions for the Old Dominion.

The National Football League superstars joined Gov. Mark Warner and Attorney General Jerry Kilgore in Richmond to make the announcement. Later, the twin brothers will jet to their hometown of Roanoke for a separate news conference and a community celebration this evening. At that celebration, Verizon Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Verizon Communications, will present the Roanoke County Schools with a gift of $50,000 for a mobile literacy resource lab on behalf of the Barber brothers' commitment to literacy and education.

The Literacy Champion program is part of the Verizon Reads literacy awareness campaign. Verizon partners with celebrities nationwide to give literacy a familiar face, bring attention to a critical issue and raise awareness and funds for the cause of literacy.

Tiki Barber is a versatile running back and kick-return specialist for the New York Giants, and Ronde is an all-pro cornerback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The two were teammates at the University of Virginia - Ronde was named to the All-ACC team and Tiki became an Academic All-American. They also played together at Cave Spring High School in Roanoke.

"One of the most important things I learned from my mom was perseverance in the face of adversity," Tiki Barber said. "Many families in Virginia also must persevere in the face of adversity because of low literacy skills. With the help of the Virginia Literacy Foundation, I know these families can gain the skills and self-esteem they need to become successful learners and productive citizens."

Ronde Barber said, "My brother and I are deeply committed to giving back to Virginia. I believe one of the best things we can do is bring attention to the cause of literacy and encourage others to get involved."

Governor Warner said, "We live in an Information Age economy that demands workers with new skills. Certainly, also, our democracy depends on the informed involvement of citizens from every segment of society. The vitality of our economy and democracy depends on how many Virginians are able to read."

Mark Emblidge, executive director of the Virginia Literacy Foundation, said, "The foundation has been working on the issue of illiteracy for over 15 years. We applaud Verizon's efforts to help all Virginians get the literacy skills they need in order to lead successful lives."

According to the National Adult Literacy Survey, 92 million adults in the U.S have low or very low literacy skills. Other studies have found that more than eight of every 20 adults with low literacy live in poverty compared to only one in 20 with strong literacy skills. These facts indicate low literacy is both widespread and detrimental.

Most experts also believe the reality, pervasiveness and negative impact of low literacy is not as widely recognized as it should be. In part this is because most people who have low literacy skills have learned to cope while hiding their struggles from friends and family. Shame and fear of ridicule are barriers that block people in need from seeking help. Building understanding of the issues surrounding low literacy is a central goal of Verizon's Literacy Champion program and is a major step toward a solution, as is raising funds to support organizations that combat low literacy with education.

"A strong America depends on a literate workforce that's skilled and articulate," said Robert Woltz, president of Verizon Virginia. "We're proud that Tiki and Ronde Barber will be the standard-bearers in Virginia for this very worthwhile effort."

The Virginia Literacy Foundation, founded in 1987, is the nation's oldest statewide literacy initiative. Its mission is to help illiterate Virginians learn to read. For the past 10 years, the foundation has supported family literacy programs, which help both parent and child learn to read. Since its inception, the Virginia Literacy Foundation, backed by generous corporate, private, and government gifts and grants has distributed millions of dollars in grants to local literacy efforts across the Commonwealth.

Through its signature program, Verizon Reads, Verizon works to increase community and corporate awareness of the insidious effects of low literacy on individuals and communities. Verizon raises funds, encourages collaboration among literacy providers, and promotes employee volunteerism in support of literacy programs around the country. Visit www.verizonreads.net to learn more about Verizon's commitment to literacy.

Verizon Communications

A Fortune 10 company, 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 136.6 million access line equivalents and 33.3 million Verizon Wireless customers. Verizon is the third-largest long-distance carrier for U.S. consumers, with 13.2 million long-distance lines, and the company is also the largest directory publisher in the world, as measured by directory titles and circulation. With approximately $67 billion in annual revenues and 227,000 employees, Verizon's global presence extends to the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Pacific. For more information on Verizon, visit www.verizon.com.