Verizon Employees and 'Season's Readings' Bring Holiday Celebration to Disadvantaged Children

TAMPA, Fla. - The power of reading was highlighted today at Verizon Florida's downtown headquarters during a Christmas party for 65 children from farming communities in Ruskin and Wimauma. The event kicked off the company's Season's Readings literacy program in the Tampa Bay area.

The centerpiece of the Season's Readings program is a book drive and a reading pledge campaign involving Verizon's employees in the region. Throughout the month, Verizon is encouraging employees in the area to donate new or gently used children's books and to pledge to read to a child during the holiday season and in the coming year.

Last December, Verizon employees donated almost 70,000 books to nonprofit organizations and pledged to read for more than 15,000 hours to either their own children or at area schools. This December, employee contributions are expected to surpass last year's book donation and reading pledge totals. Tampa Bay Reads will distribute books collected locally to area literacy organizations.

Similar efforts are underway at more than 250 Verizon locations across the country.

At today's event, Judy Hill, BayLife columnist in The Tampa Tribune, read the classic holiday story "The Night Before Christmas," by Clement Clark Moore, to the children. They were also given a personal copy of the book as part of the event.

"Reading is the key to a successful life and is the best gift of all," said John Blanchard, president-Southeast region, Verizon. "Season's Readings can help foster literacy skills that can make a difference in the lives of all children."

The children at today's party, all from six to nine years old, are part of the after-school program run by Redlands Christian Migrant Association (RCMA) in Ruskin. RCMA creates opportunities for the children of migrant and other low-income families to maximize choices in their lives.

Verizon employees have sponsored a Christmas party for the children associated with RCMA since 1992. The children received lunch and presents from their gift wish lists, presented by Santa Claus, portrayed this year by Florida representative Bob Henriquez. In addition, the children also received a Verizon T-shirt.

Reading Tips, Book Lists Promote Importance of Reading Aloud

To promote the importance of reading to children, Verizon has released the "Verizon Season's Readings Ten Great Holiday Books to Read to Your Children," developed by the National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL).

The company also provided NCFL's tips for reading to children and a list of 15 children's books that are excellent for year-round reading. The tips and list are sorted into three age categories - birth to toddlers, three to five years, and six to eight years.

The tips for reading aloud and the recommended book lists can serve as catalysts for parents, grandparents, siblings and others in emphasizing the importance of literacy to young people, as well a reference when choosing titles for holiday gifts over the next several weeks.

Books collected in Tampa will be donated to literacy organizations around the state. All Verizon employees will receive a copy of the NCFL lists and tips to assist them in selecting books to donate and in fulfilling reading pledges.

The Season's Readings campaign is part of Verizon's national effort to increase U.S. literacy levels. Through its signature Verizon Reads program and the Verizon Literacy Network, 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 (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 more than 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.