Verizon Commits $100,000 to Wild About Reading Literacy Partnership with L.A. Zoo

LOS ANGELES - Verizon Foundation is donating $100,000 to the Los Angeles Zoo to create Verizon Wild About Reading - a summer literacy program for children that features celebrities reading animal-themed books to children, musical entertainment and edZoocational activity books.

The program officially kicks off at 10 a.m. on Thursday, July 12, when a press event will be held at the L.A. Zoo's elephant exhibit. Joining representatives from Verizon will be a group of ZooCamp students ages 7-13 who will read excerpts from the book "Stand Back," Said The Elephant, "I'm Going To Sneeze" and "Star Trek" actress Barbara Bain, founder of Book Pals. During the program, Zoo elephant Gita will "read" from an enlarged version of the book in her exhibit and Zoo staff will "act out" parts of the book.

"Verizon has a passionate mission to become America's literacy champion by helping children discover that reading is fun," said Tim McCallion, Verizon pacific region president. "I can't think of any better partners to help spread Verizon's Wild About Reading message than Gita the elephant and the staff of the Los Angeles Zoo."

McCallion will present a $100,000 elephant-size check at the press event to Zoo Director Manuel A. Mollinedo and Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association President Don Youpa.

"The Los Angeles Zoo is extremely grateful to Verizon for its generosity and support of the Zoo's first summer reading program," said Zoo Director Manuel A. Mollinedo. "The need for more literacy programs for children is far too important to ignore. I am pleased tens of thousands of children coming to the Los Angeles Zoo this summer will be enriched through the power of the written word as well as by experiencing the wildlife that we have at the Zoo."

The Zoo is using part of Verizon's donation to create a "Wild About Reading" activity booklet. These booklets will be given to every child who comes to the Zoo this summer. Each one contains word games, important conservation messages, coloring pages and other activities. Children also can take these books to five "stamp stations" throughout the Zoo and trace pictures of animals through "brass rubbings." There also are enlarged books for children to read at each of the stamp stations.

Every Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. through Labor Day, celebrities will read animal-related stories to young visitors. Titles that the celebrities will read include "Snap!" "Stand Back," Said The Elephant, "I'm Going To Sneeze," "The Lorax," "Verdi" and "The Great Kapok Tree." Scholastic Publishing is donating copies of each book to the Wild About Reading program for use on the program's launch day.

The readings take place in Eucalyptus Grove, which has been transformed into a cozy reading stage complete with a wicker chair, a throw rug and pillows. Hay bales will be set out for the audience.

Celebrities scheduled to read include Assemblyman Dario Frommer, actors Ronn Moss, Melissa Gilbert and Pam Dawber and television and radio personalities Kent Shocknek, Rick Chambers, Mark Wallengren and Nancy Agosto. Children's book authors who have written for the Los Angeles Times Kids' Reading Room are scheduled to read on July 21 and 22.

As part of the Zoo's weekend entertainment throughout the summer, there will be music by "Abalaye," an African dance ensemble and storytelling by "Asha's Baba."

The Los Angeles Zoo is located in Griffith Park at the junction of the Ventura (134) and Golden State (5) freeways. Admission is $8.25 for adults and $3.25 for children ages 2 to 12. The Zoo is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily through Labor Day. For general information, call (323) 644-6400 or visit the Web site at http://www.lazoo.org.

Verizon is committed to being America's literacy champion. The company is conducting a national campaign to increase community awareness and to generate additional funding and support of literacy programs for adults, children and families.

In addition to literacy, Verizon Foundation supports a variety of programs that focus on improving 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

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 112 million access line equivalents and 27 million wireless customers. Verizon is also the largest directory publisher in the world. A Fortune 10 company with approximately 260,000 employees and more than $65 billion in annual revenues, Verizon's global presence extends to 40 countries in the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Pacific. For more information on Verizon, visit www.verizon.com.