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 as the company's "Season's Readings" literacy program hit high gear with a Christmas party for 68 needy children from farming communities in Ruskin and Wimauma.

The centerpiece of the Season's Readings program in the Tampa Bay area is a book drive and a read-aloud pledge campaign involving Verizon's 14,000 employees in the region. Throughout the holiday season, 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. Similar efforts are underway at other Verizon locations across the country.

Jorge Diaz, former Tampa Bay Buccaneer and local Fox sports commentator, read "The Night Before Christmas," by Clement Clark Moore, to the children.

"I know you are receiving many gifts here today," Diaz told the children. "But reading is the best gift of all. It can transport you to faraway places, help you understand the mysteries of life and help you become anything you want to be when you grow up."

"Jorge Diaz knows that reading is the key to a successful life," said John Blanchard, president-Southeast region, Verizon. "We thank him for joining us today and I want to personally thank our employees for their participation in the Season's Readings program and this fabulous party."

The children, 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. In addition, the children also received a Verizon T-shirt and a copy of "Read To Me, Grandma," by Peter W. Barnes.

Reading Tips, Book Lists Promote Importance of Reading Aloud

To promote the importance of reading aloud 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 aloud 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 their read-aloud 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

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 128.5 million access line equivalents and 28.7 million wireless customers. Verizon is also the largest directory publisher in the world. A Fortune 10 company with 256,000 employees and approximately $65 billion in annual revenues, Verizon's global presence extends to more than 40 countries in the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Pacific. For more information on Verizon, visit www.verizon.com.