NEW YORK -- New York Giants star running back Tiki Barber is Verizon's Literacy Champion for New York City. The
company announced Barber's role today at Madison Square Garden during the Learning Leaders annual kick-off event, marking
the beginning of the school year.
Learning Leaders is a not-for-profit organization that recruits volunteers to work in New York City public schools.
The Literacy Champions program is part of the Verizon Reads literacy awareness campaign. Verizon partners with
celebrities in communities nationwide to give literacy a familiar face, bring attention to a critical issue and raise
awareness and funds for the cause of literacy.
"One of the most important things I learned from my mom was perseverance in the face of adversity," said Tiki
Barber, Verizon's Literacy Champion and a former Academic All-American from the University of Virginia. "Many
children in New York also must persevere in the face of adversity, as must our entire country following the events of the
last two weeks. But with the help of organizations such as Learning Leaders and Verizon, I know public school children
in New York City can gain the skills and self-esteem they need to become successful learners and productive
According to the National Adult Literacy Survey, 92 million adults in the U.S have low or very low literacy skills.
Other studies have found that more than eight of every 20 adults with low literacy live in poverty compared to only one
in 20 with strong literacy skills. Taken together these facts indicate low literacy is both widespread and detrimental.
Most experts also believe the reality, pervasiveness and negative impact of low literacy is not as widely recognized as
it should be. In part this is because vast numbers of the very people who have low literacy skills have learned to cope
while hiding their struggles from friends and family. Shame and fear of ridicule are barriers that block people in need
from seeking help. Building understanding of the issues surrounding low literacy is a central goal of Verizon's Literacy
Champion program and is a major step towards a solution, as is raising funds to support organizations that combat low
literacy with education.
The award-winning Learning Leaders, formerly called the New York City School Volunteer Program, was created in 1956 and
is one of the oldest programs of its kind in the country dedicated to the cause of literacy. The organization recruits,
trains and supports nearly 10,000 school volunteers who provide one-on-one and small group instructional support and
other services to more than 150,000 New York public school children.
"Learning Leaders knows the importance of helping a child reach his or her full potential," said Mary Beth
Bardin, executive vice president-public affairs and communications for Verizon. "In this time of uncertainty and
grieving that role is more important than ever. As we rebuild our nation following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks,
literacy will be a vital part of building a strong America with the educated, skilled and articulate citizenry we need to
extend and strengthen our legacy of freedom. Verizon is proud and excited to have Tiki Barber as our literacy champion
in New York."
Through its signature program, Verizon Reads, the company works to increase community and corporate awareness of the
insidious effects of low literacy on individuals and communities. Verizon raises funds, encourages collaboration among
literacy providers and promotes employee volunteerism in support of literacy programs around the country. Visit
href="http://www.verizonreads.net">www.verizonreads.netto learn more about Verizon's commitment to literacy.
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 125 million access line
equivalents and 28 million wireless customers. Verizon is also the largest directory publisher in the world. A Fortune
10 company with about 260,000 employees and more than $65 billion in annual revenues, Verizon's global presence extends
to 40 countries in the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Pacific. For more information on Verizon, visit