Walnut Bend ES and community raise awareness for National Literacy Month

Celebrity readers share stories, set an example for community involvement

Walnut Bend ES partner Phillips 66, along with the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation and Lone Star Sports & Entertainment, got together at the campus on opening day Monday to raise awareness about the importance of literacy for Houston’s children. The star-studded event kicked off HISD’s Literacy By 3 program, a movement designed to turn around and end the literacy crisis in Houston.

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Neil Bush, son of President George H. W. and Barbara Bush and chairman of the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation; Jamey Rootes, president of the Houston Texans and Lone Star Sports & Entertainment; and Greg Maxwell, executive vice president and chief financial officer of Phillips 66, demonstrated community engagement and their personal dedication to the initiative by taking time out of their busy schedules to read to a group of second-grade students.

Three gridiron legends, Charles Alexander, two-time All-American and Heisman Trophy finalist; and Dan Pastorini and Don Trull, both former quarterbacks for the Houston Oilers, also sat down with a child to share a book.

“This is one of the components of our Literacy By 3 movement, because it does involve the corporate and business community,” said Karla Loria, HISD chief elementary school officer.

The mission set for HISD’s Literacy By 3 program is to have every child reading and writing with fluency on grade level by the end of Grade 3, but it will also reach HISD students at every level who are struggling with reading mastery.

In the classroom, Literacy By 3 will employ uniform strategies at every HISD school. Elementary and secondary levels will use a highly personalized approach for each student. The program recognizes that reading isn’t just a classroom activity, but brings reading into each student’s home and connects families with community resources.

HISD is partnering with the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation to train and manage a corps of volunteer one-on-one reading mentors as an important part of the Read Houston Read volunteer program.

“The Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation has mobilized the community, and we have developed an action plan to help Houston focus more on issues related to literacy,” explained Neil Bush. “We determined that we have a crisis in Houston in every age segment, and so we’re implementing a plan over the next few years that’s going to bring the community together to make Houston more literate.”

HISD is inviting individuals and community groups throughout the greater Houston area to volunteer to tutor first-graders in person or online once a week. Any Houstonian can volunteer to be a Read Houston Read mentor by going to readhoustonread.com.

“So, it’s really community members and corporate members getting together with HISD to ensure all of our kids will be reading on grade level by Grade 3,” added Loria. “We have an opportunity here to ensure that every child will be reading on grade level, and that will ensure that they will have a better future — they can go to any career of their choosing.”