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NEW YORK - Verizon Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Verizon Communications, will provide $3 million in grants to the nation's top literacy organizations to help them create an innovative online Web site (www.verizonreads.net) to promote a more literate America. The site, which will be known as the Verizon Literacy Network, was announced today in Dallas in conjunction with the National Center for Family Literacy's annual conference.
Verizon today gave the first $1.5 million of that gift to the American Library Association (ALA), the National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL), the National Institute for Literacy (NIFL) and Reading is Fundamental (RIF) - the four initial literacy partners in the network.
"Literacy organizations across the country are doing great work, but we have lacked the kind of resources a major communications company like Verizon can bring to the table," said Andy Hartman, executive director, NIFL. "The Verizon Literacy Network adds an important new communications and information platform that will complement our current efforts and dramatically extend the literacy community's outreach to the general public and the millions of Americans seeking to improve their literacy skills."
According to the National Adult Literacy Survey, 92 million adults in the U.S. - almost 48 percent of the population - have very low or low literacy skills. Reading and writing at these levels make it difficult to earn a living wage and turns everyday tasks into extraordinary challenges.
The Verizon Literacy Network is designed for use by people needing help and the friends and family members who may be helping them find assistance, people seeking volunteer opportunities and literacy organizations that provide help for children and adult learners.
This project marks the first time a Web site has linked charitable, public and private resources nationwide to focus on a single societal issue. Resources on the site will include educational information on literacy, local and national organizations providing assistance, literacy volunteer opportunities, distance learning courses and more as the Network continues to grow.
"Verizon is committed to using technology as a powerful catalyst for positive change," said Charles R. Lee, Verizon chairman and co-chief executive officer. "The Verizon Literacy Network provides an opportunity to significantly improve literacy by opening the door to newlevels of collaboration between America's literacy advocates. It will enable them to deliver valuable information, resources and training over the Internet to millions of households nationwide."
Verizon has supported literacy efforts in local communities it serves and in 1999, the company (then known as GTE) launched Verizon Reads - a comprehensive national campaign to raise literacy levels in America through corporate philanthropy, community outreach, employee volunteerism and collaboration with major literacy organizations.
The first feature of the Verizon Literacy Network, "Ask Verizon Reads," goes online today. Powered by Ask Jeeves' natural language technology, the site allows visitors to ask questions in plain English about literacy using the "Ask Verizon Reads" question box and receive a comprehensive list of Web sites with specific information related to the question. Question boxes also will appear on the ALA, NCFL, NIFL and RIF Web sites.
"We are proud that this network of the nation's top literacy organizations has chosen Ask Jeeves to power their online initiative," said Claudio Pinkus, president of Ask Jeeves Business Solutions. "Ask Jeeves' intuitive interface enables people to quickly and easily find the information they are looking for. By understanding and analyzing the questions people ask, we will provide our partners with valuable insight about their users' needs and interests. We plan to help the Verizon Literacy Network stay in close touch with its online users and move it closer to achieving its goals."
The Verizon Literacy Network will continue to grow in usefulness as more features are added throughout 2001 and beyond. Features to be added this year include:
- Verizon Literacy University: This online distance-learning program will provide training and certification in literacy tutoring from leading national literacy organizations. This will help them recruit and train more volunteers across the country, regardless of geographic location.
- Online Literacy Directory: Visitors to the Network's Web site can enter their ZIP codes to find literacy organizations in their own communities where they can receive assistance or donate their time as volunteers. This initiative is led by the NIFL in partnership with Verizon Information Services' Superpages.com and the U.S. Departments of Education and Labor.
- Organization Administrative Site: The Network will include a password-protected site for literacy organizations that offers information and tools to help them with grant applications and other administrative tasks. This site will be designed to help literacy organizations be more efficient and effective in their outreach.
Verizon is committed to being America's literacy champion. The company was named a winner of the 1999 Presidential Ron Brown Award for Corporate Leadership in recognition of Verizon Reads' literacy outreach. For more information on Verizon Reads, visit www.verizonreads.net.
Verizon Foundation supports a variety of programs that focus on improving basic and computer literacy, bridging the digital divide and enriching communities through technology and creating a skilled work force. For more information on the foundation, visit www.verizon.com/foundation.
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 nearly 109 million access line equivalents and more than 27.5 million wireless customers. Verizon is also the world's largest provider of print and online directory information. A Fortune 10 company with approximately 260,000 employees and more than $63 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 www.verizon.com.