Verizon, Disney Publishing Worldwide, First Book Delivering 100,000 Books to Washington, D.C., Area Kids

WASHINGTON - Verizon, Disney Publishing Worldwide and First Book intend to turn a page or two on the local literacy front by distributing 100,000 books to organizations in the Washington metropolitan area.

During a celebration-of-reading event today held at the U.S. Department of Education, books donated by Disney Publishing were distributed to recipient groups from the district, Maryland and Virginia. Taking part in this effort were Verizon volunteers, Disney Publishing
Worldwide, and First Book, a national nonprofit agency dedicated to providing children from low-income families with new books.

The collaborative relationship emphasizes the importance of reading, brings greater attention to the literacy challenges facing America, and enhances the language and reading comprehension skills of children. The Verizon Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Verizon Communications, provided a $200,000 grant to fund a key element of this initiative -- the online technology used by the First Book National Book Bank. At www.nationalbookbank.org, organizations can register to receive books, individuals can volunteer to put books in the hands of children, and publishers can donate books.

Verizon, which has an active volunteer presence in the Washington area and is one of the largest private employers in the district, stored the books at its local warehouse in Landover, Md. Members of Verizon's Consortium of Information and Telecommunications Executives (CITE), a nonprofit organization of African-American and other minority employees, worked with First Book representatives to sort, package and deliver the books. CITE members also have been tutoring and mentoring children and adults in community programs that First Book supports.

"Placing a book into the hands of a child, then helping a young girl or boy learn to appreciate the power and magic of reading, is inspirational," said Kathryn C. Brown, senior vice president - public policy development and corporate social responsibility for Verizon. "The company deeply values the importance of improving literacy in order to nurture and build strong communities. We are on a long-term mission to motivate youth to develop strong verbal and reading skills because those abilities build self-esteem and confidence and shape the framework for success in life."

In conjunction with the start of the book distribution, Grammy Award-winning jazz musician and Verizon Literacy Champion Al Jarreau read "Duke Ellington" to 30 children from the Project Northstar: Homeless Children's Tutorial Project Inc., which provides educational and emotional support to homeless and formerly homeless children through one-on-one tutoring.

Through the Verizon Literacy Champion program, Verizon partners with celebrities like Jarreau and actor Sean Astin who donate their image and time to help raise awareness about low literacy in the U.S. and to raise funds.

The president of First Book, Kyle Zimmer, said: "Verizon's support of the First Book National Book Bank through employee volunteers and the underwriting of online access is simply fabulous. Thanks to this partnership, we can connect nonprofits with publishers like Disney Publishing Worldwide, which has donated more than 7 million books to the First Book National Book Bank."

"We believe that reading with children is one of the most precious and valuable ways families can spend time together," said Deborah Dugan, president, Disney Publishing Worldwide. "We are pleased to further our commitment to First Book and bring the joy of reading to the children of metropolitan Washington and surrounding communities with this donation." Preston Padden, executive vice president, government affairs for the Walt Disney Company, joined the reading celebration and affirmed Disney's commitment to children and reading.

Today's event builds upon the Verizon's national campaign to increase literacy levels. 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

Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ), a Dow 30 company, is one of the world's leading providers of communications services, with approximately $68 billion in annual revenues. Verizon companies are the largest providers of wireline and wireless communications in the United States. Verizon is also the largest directory publisher in the world, as measured by directory titles and circulation. Verizon's international presence includes wireline and wireless communications operations and investments, primarily in the Americas and Europe. For more information, visit www.verizon.com.


DisneyHand, the worldwide outreach program for The Walt Disney Company, is dedicated to making the dreams of families and children a reality through public service initiatives, community outreach and volunteerism in the areas of learning, compassion, the arts and the environment. The Walt Disney Company, together with its subsidiaries and affiliates, is a diversified, international family entertainment and media enterprise which includes Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, The Walt Disney Studios, ABC, Inc., ESPN, Disney Channel, Disney Stores, television and radio stations and Internet web sites. For more information on Disney's corporate public service efforts, please visit our Web site at www.disneyhand.com.

First Book

First Book, www.firstbook.org, is a national nonprofit organization that provides children from low-income families with the chance to read and own their first new books. A major component of First Book's work is accomplished through the First Book National Book Bank, a centralized donation and distribution agent that enables publishers to donate books and related products to established, community-based programs. This distribution is a continuation of the partnership between the CITE-Verizon Employee Resource Group and First Book to bring books to children in need.


Media contacts:

Sandra Arnette, Verizon, 410-393-7109

Ellen Morgenstern, Disney Publishing, 212-633-4485

Wendy Bhagat, First Book, 703-362-8705