Sister Cities International Welcomes President Bush to Gala in Houston

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Join Sister Cities International and friends for a very special evening at the 2019 Annual Awards Dinner and Gala with Special Guest President George W. Bush. The event will be held at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Houston, Texas on July 19, 2019 at 6:00 pm.

The evening will feature a fireside chat with President Bush, former Honorary Chairman of Sister Cities International, where he will discuss the importance of nurturing a global perspective, promoting business relationships, and the potential for citizen diplomacy to create positive change in today’s world.

Founded by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956, Sister Cities International is a nonpartisan 501(c)(3) nonprofit whose mission is to promote peace through mutual respect, understanding, and cooperation—one individual, one community at a time.

To learn more or purchase tickets, please visit

Rock Singer Constantine Maroulis Headlines Private Party for Jungle Book Gala Kick Off

On Tuesday Dr. Monte and Deborah Stavis hosted a private party at their River Oaks residence to kick off the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation’s 5th annual Jungle Book Gala to be held in November.

The more than 150 guests mixed and mingled over light bites and libations by Chef Soren Pederson amidst the jungle-themed home decorated by Stevenpaul Creative Resources featuring snakes, orchids, animal-printed fabrics, a succulent wall, and a large-scale Jungle Book Gala backdrop in the shape of a book. Guests then proceeded to the tented lawn for special remarks from the Stavis family and from Gala Co-chairs Amy and Kyle McCully and Morgan Stautzenberger and Cameron Stubbs. Nick and Jeff Carnrite also took the stage to announce that The Carnrite Group will serve as the Title Sponsor for the 2019 Jungle Book Gala for the second year in a row.

Following remarks, guests enjoyed an exclusive concert by American artist and rock singer Constantine Maroulis. Maroulis is a two-time Tony Award nominee and star of Broadway hit musicals, Rock of Ages and Jekyll and Hyde. He was discovered when he became a top-ten finalist on American Idol. Maroulis was flown in from New York by Stavis and Cohen Financial for the event.

Maroulis took the stage wearing a tight white suit and electrified the crowd by kicking off the 45-minute private concert with Gun’s and Roses’ Welcome to the Jungle and by the end of the night had guests signing along to Bryan Adam’s Summer of 69 and his special rendition of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. Maroulis closed the concert with the crowd dancing to Livin’ on a Prayer by Bon Jovi.

The annual black-tie gala will be held on Friday, November 8 at one of Houston’s most popular event venues, The Revaire. Party goers can look forward to an exotic evening complete with drinks, hors d'oeuvres, a silent auction, and dancing to live music by the Matchmaker Band from Austin, Texas!

Inaugural Big Book Giveaway Event

On June 19th, the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation facilitated the inaugural ‘Big Book Giveaway’. This semi-annual book distribution event supplied 25,000 books to 28 of the Foundation’s literacy and community non-profit partners. Thanks to helping hands from the Astros Foundation and Rockets Give Back, representatives from each recipient partner organization carefully selected books from a diverse list of classic and popular titles. When asked about her favorite part of book distribution events, Astros Foundation volunteer and former educator Juliana stated, “I think it’s wonderful that the titles are so current.” A spirit of volunteer enthusiasm was palpable in the Friends of the Houston Public Library warehouse, with many volunteers like Megan from Rockets Give Back exclaiming she “wasn’t expecting 25,000 books.” Volunteers were not only motivated by a passion for literacy, but also a realization that it is “time to give back” to children in our community.


Organization representatives were present to select books for implementation in their respective programs. Jill Gonzalez, executive director of Women’s Storybook Project of Texas, a non-profit devoted to connecting incarcerated women to their children through the power of literacy, proclaimed “children are unintended victims of the system. These books are going to make an impact on the mother who reads them to her child and the child who hears her read.” Other organizations present include Avenue 360 Health and Wellness, an organization dedicated to providing Houston’s underserved populations with access to high quality health care providers. Denise Snow and Jana Vanhoy represented the organization at the giveaway, revealing that the books would be distributed in pediatric clinic waiting rooms, where children would be able to take the titles home with them after their appointments to build their home libraries.


The success of the ‘Big Book Giveaway’ would not have been possible without the collaborative efforts between the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation, literacy partners, and volunteers. Together, all entities strive to ensure that Mrs. Bush’s legacy as a champion of literacy lives on.

Summer Reading Programs in Houston

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The heat has arrived once again and that can mean only one thing—it is summer time in Houston! After a long school year, it is important to ensure that your student retains their skills and avoids falling into the ‘summer slide’ that could potentially hinder his or her progress in the upcoming school year. Experts agree that the best way to avoid the summer slide is to encourage your child to continue to participate in activities that stimulate their minds and spark their curiosity.

To prevent a decline in academic progress over the summer months, it is important to sustain the educational momentum students feel during the school year while students are at home. Within the home, parents can grant their children the opportunity to self-select a few book titles during a trip to their local library or a nearby bookstore. Parents can also take an active role in encouraging their child to complete these books by engaging in thoughtful dialogues with their children about their chosen texts, or even offering to read aloud with their child.

All too often, children describe reading as a ‘chore’. Help change this mindset by offering a small incentive to reward your child for reaching reading milestones. For example, if your child reads for a minimum of fifteen minutes per day for one consecutive week, offer to reward them with a small treat, such as an ice cream. Other incentive-based reading programs can be found at your local libraries, where participation in summer reading programs can yield exclusive rewards and opportunities to be entered into drawings for additional prizes.

Click on the button below to view free summer reading programs happening across our city!

Power of Literacy Luncheon is Anticipated Sellout


Julie Andrews and daughter Emma Walton Hamilton will headline this year’s Power of Literacy Luncheon hosted by the Ladies for Literacy Guild on October 25 at the Post Oak Hotel at Uptown. Andrews’ fame spans generations, known for her roles as Mary Poppins and Maria von Trapp in the iconic film The Sound of Music, to The Princess Diaries and the voices of Queen Lillian’ in the Shrek movies and more.

“We are grateful to Nancy Ames for securing this extraordinary mother-daughter duo for this year’s luncheon,” said Lilly Andress and Vicki West, Co-Chairs of the 2019 Power of Literacy Luncheon. “Based on initial response to ticket and table sales, we anticipate this event to be a sellout. This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime event, and everyone interested in attending the luncheon and supporting Mrs. Bush’s literacy cause is encouraged to act quickly in securing a table.”

(Photo: Lilly Andress and Vicki West, Credit: Daniel Ortiz Photography)

(Photo: Lilly Andress and Vicki West, Credit: Daniel Ortiz Photography)

Children's Library Dedicated at Mission of Yahweh

The Ladies for Literacy and Mission of Yahweh held a ribbon cutting ceremony to unveil a newly-renovated children’s library generously funded by the Guild through proceeds from the Power of Literacy luncheon. Dedicated in memory of Barbara Bush, the woodland animal-themed library has new furniture, shelving, comfortable seating and hundreds of books for children to read and enjoy. Ladies for Literacy President Donatella Benckenstein, along with Grants Committee Co-Chair Betty Hrncir, and Cindy Puryear and Sandra Shenkir devoted countless hours of their time and talent towards the renovation project. This library is the second community-based Barbara Bush Children’s Library funded by the Ladies for Literacy Guild. “Reading is the gateway out of poverty and leads to a bright future,” said Richard Hill, Mission of Yahweh Executive Director. “We are deeply grateful to Ladies for Literacy Guild for creating a library for our children and their families to learn together.”

The Mission of Yahweh addresses the needs of resident children who suffer developmental, emotional, social and educational effects from homelessness. Through Mission of Yahweh’s children’s programs, developmental and educational programs are provided to stabilize homeless children and place them on a level playing field with other students.




More than 200 employees from Deloitte spent this morning engaging kids in fun, literacy skill-building activities at Small Steps Nurturing Center and the Children’s Museum of Houston as part of our local partnership on Impact Day. Impact Day is Deloitte’s annual day to celebrate the company’s year-round commitment to community-powered social impact. Company- and world-wide, thousands of employees engage in volunteerism projects in cities across the globe to make an impact.

Children at Small Steps Nurturing Center put on their sunscreen, bathing suits and big smiles as they played in a splash park created by Deloitte while learning about animals, shapes and, of course, water! In addition, children learned about letters and sounds while drawing with shaving cream. It may be 90 degrees in Houston, but it was a “cool” morning at Small Steps for dozens of kids thanks to the generosity of time from Deloitte. We encourage you to make an impact this summer, too!



Mix 96.5 is hosting the second annual Prom Night Do Over on June 15, 2019, 7:30 PM to midnight at the Omni Houston Riverway. Guests will be taken back in time with a vintage Hollywood theme. Not only will you be able to “do-over” your prom night, but you will also be able to do good, while having a great time, because this 21+ party will benefit the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation.

Spend the evening dancing the night away, sipping on adult beverages, taking your Official Prom Picture, shopping and bidding on fun packages in the silent auction – all for a great cause! You can even register for a chance to be crowed Prom King & Queen! 

Don your best Hollywood throwback or black-tie attire and join us!

Purchase your tickets today!

Little Free Library Dedicated to Al Carnrite

Neil and Maria Bush joined members of the Jungle Book Gala Host Committee, staff and special guests from Stavis & Cohen Financial to dedicate a Little Free Library in honor of Al Carnrite, Chairman and CEO of The Carnrite Group, for his extraordinary support of the literacy in our community. The Carnrite Group served as Title Sponsor for the 2018 Jungle Book Gala, and Al Carnrite personally donated a week stay at his home in Cabo as an item in the live auction.

“We are deeply grateful for Al’s support of the literacy cause,” said Neil Bush, Co-founder and Chairman of the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation, “He drank the Barbara Bush Kool-Aid. This Little Free Library is one small way to show our appreciation for his passion, commitment and generosity.”

Maria Solis, principal of Memorial Elementary School in Houston ISD, was on hand to thank everyone for choosing the Memorial Elementary Spark Park as the site for the Little Free Library. Located at the corner of Arnot and Haskell streets, the Little Free Library is accessible for children and families to ‘take a book/share a book’.


Second Quarterly Literacy Partner Network Meeting

The second quarterly Literacy Partner Network Meeting gathered representatives from numerous Houston advocacy and non-profit groups to share their respective plans to combat Houston’s hot summers with cool programs. One of the most notable announcements was the unveiling of an interactive map demonstrating the Foundation’s impact across the city. Map users can toggle settings to determine the effects of programs such as ‘My Home Library’ and ‘Books Between Kids’, with the option to view data using a variety of demographic layers.

Partners highlighted the value of technology integration to encourage digital literacy initiatives; such as the implementation of a web-based system to track reading hours for participants in the Houston Public Libraries and Harris County Public Libraries’ summer reading programs. Furthermore, the meeting introduced two pilot applications promoting literacy and language acquisition, Cell-Ed and Learning Upgrade, as a part of the X-Prize international competition for the development of mobile applications to improve literacy skills among children and adults. Both applications are available on the App Store and Google Play.

Additionally, attendees representing Literacy Partner Network member organizations had the opportunity to present their various summer literacy initiatives. Featured summer programming encourages reading in the home through the distribution of age-appropriate books and the coordination of family-based literacy events. The distribution of books is not possible without the help of Scholastic Literacy Partners, who provide valuable resources to facilitate the acquisition and distribution of books for students across the city.