Verizon, Scholastic Book Clubs, First Book Delivering Half-a-Million Books to North Texas Kids

IRVING, Texas - Verizon, Scholastic Book Clubs™ and First Book® intend to turn a page or two on the local literacy front by distributing 500,000 books to children from low-income families in Dallas, Forth Worth and area communities by Thanksgiving.

During a celebration-of-reading event today, Verizon volunteers; Scholastic Book Clubs, a division of Scholastic, the global children's publishing and media company; and First Book, a national nonprofit agency dedicated to providing children from low-income families their first new books, handed out the first batch of books donated by Scholastic Book Clubs.

The collaborative relationship is designed to emphasize the importance of reading, bring greater attention to the literacy challenges facing America, and enhance the language and reading comprehension skills of North Texas children.

Verizon, which is DFW's fifth-largest employer and also has an active volunteer presence, will store the books at its local warehouse in Grapevine. Members of Verizon's Consortium of Information and Telecommunications Executives (CITE), a nonprofit organization of African-American and other minority employees, will work with First Book representatives to deliver the books. Members of CITE also will read to, tutor and mentor 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 Steve Banta, Verizon Southwest region president. "Verizon 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."

The DFW-area initiative builds upon Scholastic Book Club's ClassroomsCare program, a philanthropy-based literacy campaign. ClassroomsCare partners with teachers to encourage children to read for others. For each class that reads 100 books, Scholastic Book Clubs donates 100 books to underprivileged kids. First Book and other literacy groups help ClassroomsCare get the donated books into the hands of children in need.

"Through the ClassroomsCare initiative, hundreds of thousands of kids across the country, including Texas, are learning a powerful lesson -- that the simple act of one child reading can actually make a difference in the life of another child who doesn't own a book," said Judy Newman, senior vice president, Scholastic Book Clubs. "Since 2000, ClassroomsCare has helped Scholastic Book Clubs make strides toward fulfilling our mission to put a book into the hands of every child."

The president of First Book, Kyle Zimmer, said, "Over the past three years, Scholastic Book Clubs has donated millions of books to First Book, and their 2003 ClassroomsCare initiative is better than ever. Verizon, a long-time supporter of the First Book National Book Bank, has once again revealed the company's dedication to helping children in need by hosting this book distribution in Texas. Scholastic Book Clubs and Verizon are true corporate leaders in their efforts to build the next generation of readers."

Laurie M. Rich, U.S. assistant secretary for intergovernmental and interagency affairs, joined the literacy leaders during today's inaugural book distribution at Thomas Haley Elementary School in Irving.

"Reading is the foundation of all learning. A child who can read well is more likely to be successful in school and in life," said Rich. "That's why President Bush and Education Secretary Rod Paige have made reading the centerpiece of the No Child Left Behind Act -- the historic education reform law. They and I are committed to ensuring that every child in North Texas -- and every child, everywhere in America -- becomes a good reader."

"Season's Readings" Rings in the Holiday

In conjunction with the start of the book distribution, and to kick off the nationwide launch of Verizon's Season's Readings, a month-long national book drive and reading campaign, Grammy Award-winning jazz musician and Verizon Literacy Champion Al Jarreau read "Charlie Parker Played Be Bop" to Thomas Haley Elementary School pupils.

Season's Readings is part of Verizon's national campaign to increase U.S. literacy levels. Throughout the holiday season, Verizon employees are encouraged to donate new or gently used children's books to the campaign and to pledge that they will read to a child or an adult during the holidays and throughout the coming year.

Through its signature Verizon Reads program and the Verizon Literacy Network, Verizon works to increase community and corporate awareness, raise funds, encourage collaboration among literacy providers, and engage employees in supporting literacy programs.

Additionally, through the Verizon Literacy Champion program, Verizon partners with celebrities like Jarreau, former Dallas Cowboy fullback Daryl "Moose" Johnston 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. For more information on Verizon Reads, visit www.verizonreads.net.

For 55 years, Scholastic Book Clubs have provided monthly catalogues offering top- quality books and reading materials from all publishers to teachers in pre-school through junior high. Today 11 different Scholastic Book Clubs reach 1 million teachers each month, providing the most sought-after titles at affordable prices for children in classrooms nationwide. The ClassroomsCare Campaign is available to teachers and classrooms through five of the Scholastic Book Clubs: Firefly( Book Club for pre-schoolers; Seesaw( Book Club for kindergarten and grade 1; Lucky( Book Club for grades 2-3; Arrow( Book Club for grades 4-6; and TAB( Book Club for grades 7 and up.

Verizon Communications

A Fortune 10 company, Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) is one of the world's leading providers of communications services, with approximately $67 billion in revenues and 221,000 employees. Verizon companies are the largest providers of wireline and wireless communications in the United States, with more than 139 million access line equivalents and 36 million Verizon Wireless customers. Verizon is the third largest long-distance carrier for U.S. consumers, with nearly 16 million long-distance lines. The company 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.

Scholastic Corporation

Scholastic Corporation (NASDAQ: SCHL) is the world's largest publisher and distributor of children's books. 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, 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, school-based and direct-to-home continuity programs; retail stores, schools, libraries, and television networks; and the Company's Internet Site, www.scholastic.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 marks the kick-off for the CITE-Verizon Employee Resource Group to partner with First Book to bring books to children in need. The book distribution and event are being held to celebrate Scholastic Book Clubs ClassroomsCare gift of 1 million books to First Book.


Media contacts:

Bill Kula, Verizon, 972-718-6924

Kyle Good, Scholastic, 212-343-4563

Susan Raisch, Scholastic, 718-667-5576

Kevin Neher, First Book, 202-393-1222