New literacy initiatives put more books into the hands of HISD students 

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Two new literacy initiatives – a literacy bus and “My Home Library”– were unveiled by HISD on Tuesday, Jan. 17 with the goal of closing the literacy gap for economically disadvantage children in the district.

The Astros Foundation, Philips 66, and HISD are partnering to send the “Literacy Bus” on the road to distribute age-appropriate books to children in grades K-5 at various city-owned baseball and softball parks renovated by the Astros Foundation as part of its Community Leaders Program. These parks are located within HISD boundaries and serve more than 1,200 Houston-area children each year. The Literacy Bus is a mobile interactive bus that will encourage family reading in Houston-area communities.

“Our kids need nothing more than having books in their hands and making it as accessible and easy as possible,” said HISD Trustee Anna Eastman. “Having people they recognize and respect promote this makes such a difference.”

After the kickoff, the Literacy Bus traveled to Sinclair ES to distribute books to about 600 students. A community and public viewing of the bus is scheduled for Sat., Jan. 21, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Minute Maid Park in downtown Houston. The Literacy Bus will be on display at the park in conjunction with FanFest, the official send-off of the Houston Astros to Spring Training. Admission to the event is free, but fans must have an admission voucher to enter FanFest. Claim your voucher here.

Also taking place on Jan. 17 at Browning ES was the launch of a new Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation initiative called My Home Library, which aims to build home libraries for children and close the books gap for economically disadvantaged children. Through the use of a custom-designed web-based tool, My Home Library enables children to create a wish list of books they want to read. Community members are able to sponsor a specific child’s home library of six brand-new books by making a tax-deductible donation of as little as $30. Pricing has been negotiated with four publishers—Scholastic, Arte Publico Press, Longtale Publishing, and Bright Sky Press.

Trustee Eastman also attended the My Home Library kickoff. “You get to take these books home and keep and share them,” she told students. “If I am having a bad day, a book is my best friend. If I want to learn more about something, I just open a book.”

At the celebration, an impressive lineup of celebrities answered questions from children before splitting up among various classrooms for “Reading with the Pros.” Among those reading were former Houston Texan Wade Smith, whose foundation facilitated the reading; former WNBA San Antonio Star Chantelle Anderson; Syracuse Chief baseball player Caleb Ramsey; former Miami Dolphin Albert Johnson III; former Kansas City Chief and owner of Rays Real BBQ Pit Herb Taylor; former Miss Texas Sarah Marie Blanton; and DJ Supastar of 93.7 The Beat.

Browning is serving as the pilot for the initiative, and Marathon Oil Corporation is the corporate partner, donating employee volunteers and financial resources raised through their annual giving campaign. Browning students will create their wish list the week of Jan. 20, and the sponsorship portal will open on Jan. 30. Home libraries will be delivered to students the week prior to Spring Break.