Verizon Foundation Awards $1 Million Grant to the National Council of La Raza for Innovative Literacy Program for Latino Community

MIAMI - An innovative program designed to build early literacy skills among Latino children will continue to expand and assist more families, thanks to a $1 million grant from the Verizon Foundation.

The award was announced Monday (July 23) during a luncheon at the National Council of La Raza's annual conference here.

The program, Lee y serás®, is a national early literacy initiative designed to empower families and communities to foster literacy development in children from birth to 8 years old. The program, and its accompanying Web site (leeyseras.net), provide research-based, culturally sensitive resources to help parents in their role as their child's first teacher.

"In today's workforce, and for the high-tech workforce of tomorrow, a greater level of literacy is demanded than ever before," said Verizon Foundation President Patrick Gaston. "Lee y serás is having a profound effect on Hispanic children and their families by providing the tools they need today to lead and succeed tomorrow."

While early literacy is an important issue for all children, it is of special concern to the Latino community. Consider:

  • Nationally, 84 percent of Latino 4th graders are reading below proficiency levels.¹

  • The dropout rate of Hispanic students is four times higher than that of white students and more than double that of black students (24 percent for Hispanics, 10.9 percent for black students and 6.3 percent for white students).²

  • Less than 25 percent of Latino 17-year-olds can read at the skill level necessary for success in college and the increasingly high-tech workplace.³

Launched in 2004, Lee y serás (Read and You Will Be) is a partnership among NCLR, Scholastic and Verizon. The curriculum for the program was developed by Scholastic. One of program's primary goals is to encourage parents about the positive impact they can have on their children's educational development and help close the education achievement gap.

Currently, NCLR is working with nonprofit organizations in the following cities to share the resources of Lee y serás: Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York and Washington.

Through the grant announced Monday, NCLR will continue to work with nonprofits in those cities and expand into two to four more by 2008.

"Education is the most important issue for Latino parents, and the Lee y seras program provides knowledge and skills that promote growth as lifelong partners in their children's education," said Janet Murguia, president and CEO of NCLR.  "They learn to understand and embrace their role as their children's first and most important teacher.  We thank Verizon for their sustained support and generous commitment of this very important program."

The Verizon Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Verizon Communications, is committed to improving literacy and K-12 education; fostering awareness and prevention of domestic violence; and promoting the use of technology in health-care delivery.  In 2006, the foundation awarded more than $69 million in grants to nonprofit agencies in the United States and abroad. The foundation also matched charitable donations from Verizon employees and retirees, resulting in $29 million in combined contributions. Under the foundation's Verizon Volunteer initiative, one of the nation's largest employee-volunteer programs, company employees and retirees have also contributed nearly 3 million hours of community service since Verizon's inception in 2000.

For more information on the foundation, visit www.verizon.com/foundation.

Lee y serás® is a national Latino early literacy initiative that empowers and engages families and communities to foster children's literacy development. By providing research-based, in-culture, and bilingual curricula and materials for families, childcare providers and leaders, the program's goal is to create long-term attitudinal and behavioral change in an effort to help close the education achievement gap. Created by and for the community, the initiative is a collaboration of Scholastic, the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) and Verizon.  For more information visit www.leeyseras.net.

About The NCLR
The National Council of La Raza (NCLR) - the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States - works to improve opportunities for Hispanic Americans.   Through its network of nearly 300 affiliated community-based organizations (CBOs) NCLR reaches millions of Hispanics each year in 41 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia.  To achieve its mission, NCLR conducts applied research, policy analysis, and advocacy, providing a Latino perspective in five key areas - assets/investments, civil rights/immigration, education, employment and economic status, and health.  In addition, NCLR provides capacity-building assistance to its affiliates who work at the state and local level to advance opportunities for individuals and families. Founded in 1968, NCLR is a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan, tax-exempt organization. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., NCLR serves all Hispanic subgroups in all regions of the country.  NCLR has operations in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix, Sacramento, San Antonio, and San Juan, Puerto Rico.  For more information on NCLR, please visit www.nclr.org.

About Verizon
Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ), headquartered in New York, is a leader in delivering broadband and other wireline and wireless communication innovations to mass market, business, government and wholesale customers.  Verizon Wireless operates America's most reliable wireless network, serving 60.7 million customers nationwide.  Verizon's Wireline operations include Verizon Business, which delivers innovative and seamless business solutions to customers around the world, and Verizon Telecom, which brings customers the benefits of converged communications, information and entertainment services over the nation's most advanced fiber-optic network.  A Dow 30 company, Verizon has a diverse workforce of more than 238,000 and last year generated consolidated operating revenues of more than $88 billion.  For more information, visit www.verizon.com.

About Scholastic
Scholastic Corporation (NASDAQ: SCHL) is the world's largest publisher and distributor of children's books and a leader in educational technology.  Scholastic creates quality educational and entertaining materials and products for use in school and at home, including children's books, magazines, technology-based products, teacher materials, television programming, film, videos and toys.  The Company distributes its products and services through a variety of channels, including proprietary school-based book clubs, school-based book fairs, and school-based and direct-to-home continuity programs; retail stores, schools, libraries and television networks; and the Company's Internet site, www.scholastic.com.


¹ U.S. Department of Education, National Assessment of Educational Progress, National Center for Educational Statistics
² U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics Ibid
³ U.S. Department of Education, National Assessment of Educational Progress, National Center for Educational Statistics