TAMPA, Fla. - Calling improved literacy a vital issue for Florida, Gov. Jeb Bush today called for 200,000 volunteers to respond to the "highest calling in our state" by becoming involved as tutors and mentors with literacy programs.
The Governor made the remarks at the Tampa Bay Reads Third Annual Celebrate Literacy Luncheon, sponsored in part by Verizon Communications, the national communications company formed through the merger of Bell Atlantic and GTE.
Noting that reading is the key to success in life, Mr. Bush said that literacy mentors could help address the despair felt by individuals who do not read well and the loss of business productivity caused by low literacy levels.
"Literacy for both our parents and children is the backbone of our reform efforts in education. If we had 200,000 mentors who would focus on improving reading skills in young people and others who cannot read, incredible things will happen in Florida," said Bush.
Bush also recognized Verizon and the company's philanthropic unit, Verizon Foundation, for making literacy an issue that is front and center in Florida and communities across the nation. "Verizon's support of literacy is a great model for corporate America to follow," said Bush. "Corporate America needs to focus on one thing that is important, rather than being all over the place with its support. It is not the easy thing to do, but it is the right thing to do."
The Governor also said the work of Verizon and Tampa Bay Reads support his statewide goal to increase the literacy of parents and children. The Governor and his mother, former First Lady Barbara Bush, formed the Family Literacy Initiative in November 1999. The mission of the initiative is to make literacy a value in every family in Florida by helping them understand that the home is the child's first school, the parent is the child's first teacher and reading is the child's first subject.
Eileen O'Neil Odum, president - national operations, Verizon, attended the luncheon and expressed support for the Governor's views. "We all have the same goal: a nation of literate productive people who make strong employees, great leaders, informed customers and good citizens. When literacy is improved, everybody wins."
Tampa Bay Reads is a local non-profit organization that supports adult, child, family and workplace literacy programs in the Tampa Bay region. The organization used today's luncheon to announce $250,000 in grants to 17 community groups, with $100,000 being used to target family literacy grants. Tampa Bay Reads has received nearly $600,000 in proceeds from the Verizon Classic Golf Tournament over the past three years.
For more information on Verizon Reads, visit www.verizonreads.net. To become a literacy tutor, contact the Florida Literacy Coalition at 1-800-237-5113 (Florida residents only).
Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ), formed by the merger of Bell Atlantic and GTE, 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 more than 100 million access line equivalents and 25.6 million wireless customers. A Fortune 10 company with more than 260,000 employees and approximately $60 billion in 1999 revenues, Verizon's global presence extends to 40 countries in the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Pacific. For more information on Verizon, visit www.verizon.com.