Unveiling of "The State of Babies Yearbook: 2019"

The State of Babies Yearbook: 2019 provides a unique, holistic perspective on the state of early childhood development and education initiatives in the United States. Today’s generation of babies and toddlers will, one day, become industry leaders and valuable contributors to our national economy. Therefore, it is essential to allocate sufficient funding and develop comprehensive policy in support of initiatives fostering the social, emotional and intellectual development of children.

Unfortunately, many children face hardships from a very early age, with 45% of children living in households earning incomes of less than twice the federal poverty level. Investing in these children during the critical ages of zero to three years mitigates the developmental disparities between low-income children and their peers. To evaluate state progress on a more granular level, leading educational research non-profits ‘ZERO TO THREE’ and ‘Child Trends’ have developed a tiered structure assessing each state’s development of critical early childhood education policies and programs.

Using the acronym “GROW” (Getting Started, Reaching Forward, Improving Outcomes, and Working Effectively), each state is identified and ordered from lowest to highest performing. Texas, along with many other states in the southern region, belongs to the class of states “Getting Started” in their efforts to scaffold the intellectual development of low-income children. Corrective actions to improve the quality of early childhood education in Texas are well underway thanks to dedicated leaders and community volunteers who serve as vocal advocates for the littlest among us.

The Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation is dedicated to providing every child with the resources and support needed to ensure that all children not only have the resources to learn, but also to thrive. Foundation pioneered programs, such as My Home Library and the Big Book Giveaway secure book choice and access opportunities for children receiving little to no exposure to books in the home. Additionally, the Foundation is a key player in the development of an expansive literacy mentor network, where volunteers engage and encourage students to develop a lifelong love of reading with the intention of ensuring that every child reads at or above grade level by third grade.

For the state of Texas to obtain the highest level of performance, it is imperative for our community to be working together and working effectively. Please consider evaluating this groundbreaking report and joining a growing network of individuals eager to serve as champions for our children.

Ladies for Literacy Inspire Readers at New Hope

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Children living in New Hope Housing Reed received a special treat thanks to members of our Ladies for Literacy Guild. More than 80 children participated in a free book fair, created book marks and engaged in story time to give them a summer boost and build their very own home libraries. Guild members served as personal shoppers, helping kids select six brand new books as part of our My Home Library program. The Ladies for Literacy sponsored the home libraries through proceeds the auxiliary raised from last year’s the Power of Literacy Luncheon. Story time took place in the Barbara Bush Children’s Library, which was designed, outfitted with books, and dedicated earlier this year thanks to the generosity of the Guild.

New Hope Housing Reed is a community built last year to provide life-stabilizing, affordable, permanent housing with support services for families who live on very limited incomes.

“We are deeply grateful to the Ladies for Literacy Guild for spending time with the children and families who call New Hope Housing home,” said Sarah Mangrem, New Hope Houston Program Director. “The love, attention and books will provide a launching pad for their future success.”

Adrian Peterson Visits Camp Adventure! at Atherton Elementary

The Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation teamed up with the Adrian and Ashley Peterson Family Foundation to provide campers at the Atherton Elementary Camp Adventure! site with a special visit from Washington Redskins running back Adrian Peterson.

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The afternoon kicked off with a brief speech from Peterson expressing the fundamental role that teamwork, hard work and dedication has played in his career as a professional football player. The Petersons then led a circuit of drill-style activities testing campers’ ability to overcome obstacles. With athleticism on full display, campers practiced an impressive array of skills intended to improve agility and coordination. Showcasing their jumping, running, and tackling abilities, campers learned the value of teamwork as they worked in small groups to complete goals.

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The action-packed afternoon provided students with a new definition of the term ‘physical education’ through the integration of physical activities with valuable lessons on the responsibility to work hard in all educational endeavors. Peterson closed the afternoon with an empowering testimony on the role of education in his life. As a final call to action, Peterson gathered campers in a team huddle, challenging them to implement the day’s lessons on dedication and commitment on the playing field, as well as inside the classroom.

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First Day of Camp Adventure! at Foster Elementary

The bright halls of HISD’s Foster Elementary, located in Houston’s historic Third Ward, were illuminated with the toothy grins of over 180 young campers. Welcome to Camp Adventure!, where students become campers, state-certified teachers are known as camp counselors, classrooms are converted into cabins, and learning is transformed into fun. Any student attending an HISD Title I school is eligible to register for this immersive, two-week long, summer day camp program.

Gleeful laughs fill the cabins as counselors lead campers in hands-on STREAM (Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Arts, and Math) experiments specially curated to complement the ideas and themes present in each day’s featured texts. Camp Adventure! activities are designed to captivate students as literacy and STEM concepts are synthesized to create a uniquely didactic experience.

Campers are divided into cabins according to their grade level, where they participate in age-appropriate activities with the assistance of their counselor, along with dedicated community and corporate volunteers dubbed “Junior Counselors”. Younger campers in Kindergarten through second grade enjoyed a read aloud of The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle and subsequently constructed their very own herb gardens to take home! Later in the day, our youngest campers unleashed their creativity, feeling inspired after a reading of Peter H. Reynolds’ The Dot. Using flour, salt, water, and food coloring, campers created paint used to craft their masterpieces.

Older campers in third through fifth grades enjoyed How This Book Was Made by Mac Barnett, decorating scientific journals they will use to document their discoveries for the duration of camp. Campers put their scientific journals to work that very afternoon as they recorded findings from their very first experiment—creating a roller coaster! Inspired by Lynda Jones’ Five Brilliant Scientists, campers configured rides worthy of admiration from even the most thrill-seeking adrenaline junkie.

Teaching Artists from the Houston Symphony have developed content exclusively tailored for Camp Adventure!. Community embedded musicians led our youngest campers in songs and stories, carefully selected to generate an interactive experience integrating music and literacy instruction.

For our older campers, all the world’s a stage thanks to theatre workshops provided by teaching artists from Theater Under the Stars (TUTS). Campers adapted stories from page to stage, working in teams to re-enact scenes from a children’s book. Experienced actors direct the students in exercises designed to instruct campers on the value of self-expression and confident communication skills.

Activity coaches from The Astros Foundation hit a home run with our students as they guided campers in physical recreation activities selected to highlight the value of teamwork and good sportsmanship. Before beginning the afternoon’s games, cabins gathered to read pages from The Astros Foundation’s exclusive picture book titled Fun at Bat, where campers engaged in thoughtful dialogues surrounding what it means to never give up.

After a packed day of exploration, and excitement, it was time for campers to turn the page on their first day at Camp Adventure!. Waving goodbye to their new friends, campers left for the afternoon feeling eager to discover the possibilities that awaited them at Camp Adventure! the following day.


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 www.sistercities.org/2019Gala

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.