West Virginia's First Lady To Launch Verizon's 'Season's Readings' Campaign

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - West Virginia First Lady Sandy Wise will help Verizon kick off its second annual "Season's Readings" literacy initiative this evening at the company's West Virginia headquarters in Charleston.

The centerpiece of the Season's Readings program is a book drive and a reading pledge campaign for Verizon employees. Throughout the holiday season, people are encouraged to donate a new or gently used children's book to the campaign as well as to make the pledge to read to a child during the holiday season and into 2003. Similar efforts are underway at other Verizon locations across the country.

The First Lady will read to a group of children from throughout the Kanawha Valley. Verizon West Virginia President Gale Given will also participate in the event. Verizon invited children from the following community centers: Vandalia Recreation Center, North Charleston Community Center, Kanawha City Community Center, King Community Center and the Coal Branch Center. Verizon employees' children also will attend the event.

"Season's Readings is an excellent opportunity to share the love of reading with a child," Wise said. "Research shows that reading can make a difference in the development of a child's brain and his or her readiness to learn, and I'm happy to join Verizon in this campaign."

"I'm hopeful that all of our 3,000 employees in West Virginia will find it in their hearts to play an active role in Season's Readings," said Given. "The enthusiasm and commitment they demonstrated in last year's campaign is unparalleled. In 2001, our employees and retirees collected nearly 4,000 books for literacy groups in West Virginia and pledged 264,000 minutes in time spent reading with children."

The books collected in West Virginia will be donated to local literacy organizations around the state.

Employees may deposit children's books in receptacles at Verizon's offices at 1500 MacCorkle Ave., S.E., and 408 Leon Sullivan Way in Charleston, as well as at company locations in Beckley, Clarksburg, Huntington, Martinsburg and Wheeling.

Verizon also released a list of tips for reading to children, developed by the National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL). The list includes book recommendations for children in three age groups - birth to toddlers, three to five years and six to eight years.

The tips for reading to children and the recommended book list can serve as a catalyst for parents, grandparents, siblings and others in emphasizing the importance of literacy to young people and a help in choosing holiday gifts All Verizon employees will receive a copy of the reading tips and suggested books list to assist them in selecting a book to donate and in fulfilling their pledge to read to a child.

Representatives of the DARE organization from the Charleston Police, the Charleston Fire Department - including city firefighter and World's Strongest Man competitor Phil Phister - and the Kanawha County and South Charleston libraries also will participate in tonight's event. In addition, members of the Shining Light Church will stage a puppet show for the children.

Season's Readings is part of Verizon's efforts to increase literacy levels in the U.S. 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. For more information on Verizon Reads, visit www.verizonreads.com.

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 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.