Education Corner

Innovative Program Champions Educational, Socio-Economic Advancement of Nation's Largest and Fastest-Growing Youth Population
Washington, DC – Responding to the urgent need to promote reading achievement among Latino youth, Scholastic, National Council of La Raza (NCLR) and the Verizon Foundation today launched Lee y serás® (Read and You Will Be), a groundbreaking Latino early literacy initiative that engages parents and communities in the literacy development of their children. Latinos represent almost 20% of the U.S. population under the age of 18 -- the largest minority segment of the nation's student population. Currently, Hispanic achievement rates in all levels of education remain low. Latino students tend to lag behind their non-Latino peers academically, particularly in the area of reading, a skill that has a direct impact on learning. Sixty percent of Latino 8th graders and 57% of Latino 4th graders read below the basic level, an achievement gap that often begins before children enter school. Early literacy skills remain a strong indicator of educational success and -- because the fate of any society depends on how well it prepares its youth for the future - business and community leaders have collaborated on this innovative new approach to Latino literacy and achievement.

"The long-term economic and social well-being of the nation rests on the strengths and successes of the growing Latino youth population." said National Council of La Raza President and CEO Janet Murguia. "Beyond having a profound impact on the Hispanic community, today's investment in Latino early literacy will yield incalculable benefits to our nation by preparing the next generation of young professionals and future leaders."

"Improving literacy among Latinos is essential if we're to realize the full potential of our communities," said Alex Toro, Director of International Strategic Planning, Verizon and National President of the Hispanic Support Organization, an employee support group. "So, we've created a program that gives Latino families the tools they need to help children achieve in school and excel in skilled professions. We're confident that Lee y serás will help yield a strong, confident and well-educated generation of Latino leaders."

CentroNía, the first of several NCLR affiliates that will make the program available to families and communities in cities all across the country, hosted today's national unveiling of Lee y serás with children and families from the community participating. Today's launch featured the debut of www.leeyseras.net, a dynamic, interactive Web site that is making the program available to community-based organizations and families nationwide. Additional Lee y serás program sites will be implemented by NCLR affiliates in Los Angeles, Dallas, Chicago, Miami, and New York starting later this year and into early 2006.

"CentroNía is a 20 year old organization dedicated to educating children, youth and families in a bilingual and multicultural community. An integral part of this mission is to help all families foster early childhood literacy, as a precursor for later academic success," said Beatriz Otero, Executive Director of CentroNía, CentroNía, an educational organization for children and families.

"Lee y serás reminds families that such traditional cultural practices as singing, reading and talking to children often and throughout day, and other everyday activities, can become meaningful learning experiences," said Teresa Mlawer, President of Lectorum Publications, a division of Scholastic. "Lee y serás helps to inform families and communities about the importance of early literacy, and demonstrates ways that families can prepare children to arrive at school with the knowledge and skills they need to be ready to read and learn - what could be more important?"

Engaging parents, caregivers, and community organizations and leaders...
Lee y serás takes a multi-faceted approach to improving early literacy development among Latino children. The program includes a dynamic, multi-media toolkit for community organizations, workshops for parents and caregivers, training for community leaders to support and advocate for Latino children, and online resources to engage families and communities nationwide. Lee y serás emphasizes learning, culture and family, and demonstrates how everyday at-home activities such as singing, cooking and storytelling help young children develop early language skills.

Elements of the Lee y serás program


- Training - Community partners provide a six-week workshop series for parents and for childcare and homecare providers, as well as a one-day or half-day literacy awareness institute for community decision makers.
- Online resources - www.leeyseras.net offers tips, stories, and curriculum for parents, caregivers and community leaders placing a wealth of information within reach.
- Software - A state-of-the-art CD ROM toolkit for community-based organizations provides curriculum, family literacy tips, Community Resource Guide and a host of other interactive resources.
- Family Album - A CD soundtrack of stories helps parents learn how everyday activities contribute to early literacy development.
- Quality Literature - A beautifully illustrated bilingual picture book, Rin, Rin, Rin, by beloved singer, songwriter José-Luis Orozco, demonstrates how a family's activities with their child - singing, reading, and making rhymes - establish a foundation for literacy.
- Posters and Bookmarks - Community partners will receive fun materials to help engage community members in the Lee y serás program.


*** A Web cast of the Capitol Hill dialogue on Latino literacy and the achievement gap, as well as of the Lee y serás national launch in Washington, DC is available by clicking on the Lee y seras icon at www.verizon.com/foundation ***

About Lee y serás®
Lee y serás® is a national Latino early literacy initiative that empowers and engages families and communities to foster children's literacy development. By providing research-based, in-culture, and bilingual curricula and materials for families, childcare providers and leaders, the program's goal is to create long-term attitudinal and behavioral change in an effort to help close the education achievement gap. Created by and for the community, the initiative is a collaboration of Scholastic, National Council of La Raza and the Verizon Foundation.

About Scholastic
Scholastic Corporation (NASDAQ: SCHL) is the world's largest publisher and distributor of children's books. Scholastic creates quality educational and entertaining materials and products for use in school and at home, including children's books, magazines, technology-based products, teacher materials, television programming, videos and toys. Scholastic distributes its products and services through a variety of channels, including proprietary school-based book clubs, school-based book fairs and school-based and direct-to-home continuity programs; retail stores, schools, libraries and television networks; and the Company's Internet Site.

About National Council of La Raza
The National Council of La Raza - the largest national constituency-based Hispanic organization and the leading voice in Washington, DC for the Hispanic community - is a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan, tax-exempt organization established to reduce poverty and discrimination and improve life opportunities for Hispanic Americans. Four major functions provide essential focus to the organization's work: capacity-building assistance; applied research, policy analysis, and advocacy; public information efforts; and special and international projects. These functions complement NCLR's work in five key strategic priorities - education, assets/investments, civil rights/immigration, employment and economic status, and health. Headquartered in Washington, DC, NCLR has field offices in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Sacramento, San Antonio, and San Juan, Puerto Rico and in 2004 opened an office in New York City. Through its community-based efforts, NCLR reaches more than four million Hispanics through a formal network of "affiliates" - more than 300 Hispanic community-based organizations that serve 41 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia - and a broader network of more than 35,000 groups and individuals nationwide.

About Verizon
The Verizon Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Verizon Communications. In 2004, the foundation awarded more than 26,000 grants totaling over $70 million to charitable and nonprofit agencies that focus on improving literacy, computer and technology skills, and identifying domestic violence solutions. The foundation uses its resources in the United States and abroad to develop partnerships in technology and connect them with organizations serving the needs of diverse communities, people with disabilities, victims of domestic violence, and the economically and socially disadvantaged. The foundation also supports Verizon Volunteers, an incentive program that last year encouraged Verizon employees to volunteer 528,000 hours in their communities and provided $37.6 million in combined contributions to charitable and nonprofit organizations. For more information on the foundation, visit www.verizon.com/foundation.

With more than $71 billion in annual revenues, Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ) is one of the world's leading providers of communications services. Verizon has a diverse work force of more than 214,000 in four business units: Domestic Telecom provides customers based in 28 states with wireline and other telecommunications services, including broadband. Verizon Wireless owns and operates the nation's most reliable wireless network, serving 47.4 million voice and data customers across the United States. Information Services operates directory publishing businesses and provides electronic commerce services. International includes wireline and wireless operations and investments, primarily in the Americas and Europe. For more information, visit www.verizon.com.

About CentroNía
CentroNía is a 501(3) non-profit community-based organization that provides affordable, high quality education, professional development, and family-support services to more than 1,000 low-income Latino, African American, and multiethnic children, youth, and families in the Washington, DC. In 1986, CentroNía (formerly known as Calvary Bilingual Multicultural Learning Center), began offering child development services to 15 neighborhood children. Throughout the years, CentroNía has evolved organically into a unique strength-based model for low-income families, which seeks to recognize and utilize genuine parent/family strengths and build onto them. For nearly 20 years, CentroNía has provided quality educational and family support services to hundreds of families, with the maintenance of accreditation through the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). CentroNía has also received national recognition as a leader in early childhood education, as a model out of school care program, and as a center where parents receive the services needed to strengthen and sustain their families.

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Source: NCLR Press Release
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