DALLAS - Reaffirming its commitment to creating communities of readers, Verizon Directories Corp., publisher of Verizon Yellow Pages, has awarded grants to America SCORES, First Book® and the Screen Actors Guild Foundation, three leading nonprofit agencies specializing in improving reading and writing levels of the youth of America. The combined grants - totaling more than $500,000 - will fund:
- America SCORES' Literacy Expansion Project, expanding both the organization's reach and scope of services. America SCORES is the nation's largest after-school program and provides inner-city youth with the tools to fight illiteracy and obesity, two of the greatest challenges facing this next generation of Americans.
- First Book's continuing efforts to provide books to children from low-income families participating in early childhood education, after-school tutoring, mentoring and family literacy programs across the country.
- Season four of the Screen Actors Guild Foundation's Storyline Online Web site featuring celebrities reading quality children's books aloud, and providing children and adults with curriculum of related activities.
"Through these partnerships we hope to build communities of readers where our employees and customers live and work," said Lance Chrisman, director of community relations for Verizon Directories Corp. "We want to make neighborhoods better places, both now and in the future, by providing kids with the tools to enjoy the many wonders and benefits of reading."
The America SCORES grant funds the Literacy Expansion Project, increasing the number of students in the program nationally from 4,000 to 5,500 and helping existing SCORES programs touch even more kids. It will also fund the first middle school program and first national training initiative for teachers in creative writing and help reach 13,500 SCORES alumni who graduated from programs in elementary school but cannot find commensurate activities during their early teen years.
"Illiteracy and obesity are among the biggest challenges facing children attending poor, inner-city public schools in America," said Paul Caccamo, president of America SCORES. "We are grateful that Verizon Directories Corp recognizes the importance of the America SCORES model using the proven benefits of poetry and creative writing, which encourage self expression; soccer, which builds increased self-esteem and better physical health; and community service, which encourages good citizenship and empowerment. All these benefits facilitate the healthy development of the whole child."
First Book's grant will support ongoing efforts to put new books into the hands of children who are the hardest to reach. Since its founding in 1992, First Book has distributed more than 46 million new books to children in need in thousands of communities nationwide. By providing children with books they can take home and keep, First Book targets the only variable that correlates significantly with reading scores: the number of books in the home.
"Over the course of our five-year relationship, Verizon Directories Corp. has enabled us to bring the magic of reading to many, many children in need, "said Kyle Zimmer, president of First Book. "They truly are champions for literacy and champions for children."
The Screen Actors Guild Foundation and Verizon Directories Corp. announced that a fourth installment of Storyline Online will begin production shortly. The stories, currently available online at www.storylineonline.net, feature celebrities such as Jane Kaczmarek, Bradley Whitford, Sean Astin, Esai Morales, Eric Close and others reading quality children's picture books using the widely accepted reading-aloud strategy. Storyline Online also features a supplemental curriculum developed by an early literacy specialist. Together, the videos and related curriculum strengthen comprehension, verbal and written skills of English language learners worldwide. Available free of charge twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, Storyline Online ensures that every child who has access to an Internet connection can be exposed to a story.
"We've truly seen an impact in the three years that we've partnered with Verizon Directories Corp.," said Mitchell Ryan, president of the SAG Foundation. "We receive messages daily from parents and teachers thanking us for providing them a fun and useful resource."
About Verizon Directories Corp.
Verizon Directories Corp., a subsidiary of Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), is the second largest yellow pages directories publisher in the United States. Products include Verizon Yellow Pages; print white pages; SuperPages.com; and, SuperPages On the Go information directory.
About America SCORES
America SCORES is the nation's largest after-school program that provides inner-city youth with the tools to fight illiteracy and obesity, two of the greatest challenges facing this next generation of Americans. America SCORES was founded in 1994 as DC SCORES in Washington DC by a teacher concerned about the lack of after-school opportunities available to her inner-city community. She taught her female students soccer as a method of keeping them off the streets and building their self-esteem. During inclement weather, these same girls gathered in her classroom as a team and asked the teacher if she had other hobbies. When she introduced them to poetry, she was startled by what she saw: the teamwork developed on the field translated to an earnest interest in writing in the classroom.
During the next four years, the teacher turned this combination of sports and literacy into an after-school model of academic enrichment. She also added a community service requirement to her program in the spring season. In 1999, America SCORES was established to replicate the program design. America SCORES has since worked with local community leaders to launch SCORES programs in urban public school districts that serve thirteen U.S. cities. The mission of America SCORES is to inspire in urban youth a lasting dedication to education, healthy living and civic responsibility. Four thousand at-risk children are involved with the program as of 2005.
About First Book
First Book is an international nonprofit organization with a single mission: to give children from low-income families the opportunity to read and own their first new books. Through hundreds of local Advisory Board, the First Book National Book Bank, and the First Book Marketplace, the organization provides an ongoing supply of new books to children participating in community-based mentoring, tutoring, and family literacy programs. First Book has provided more than 46 million new books to children in need in thousands of communities nationwide. For more information about First Book, please visit www.FirstBook.org or call 866-393-1222.
About Screen Actors Guild Foundation
Established in 1985, the SAG Foundation (www.sagfoundation.org) is a non-profit, humanitarian, education and philanthropic organization dedicated to serving guild members and the larger community with programs that assist, educate and inspire.