Virtual read aloud initiative encourages children and families to read during closure of schools due to coronavirus.
Mayor Sylvester Turner and the BarbaraBush Houston Literacy Foundation (Foundation) joined forces to launch #WeRead, a focused effort in response to the need for high-quality, digital learning content to support at-home and distance education amidst school and library closures. #WeRead is a virtual read aloud program featuring videos of Bush family members, elected officials, sports professionals, local children’s book authors, celebrities, members of the Foundation’s Ladies for Literacy Guild, business and community leaders and others reading their favorite children’s books. Currently, more than 100 videos have been posted in multiple languages in support of the initiative. The goal of #WeRead is to share the joy of stories and inspire children and families to read at home.
“The COVID-19 outbreak has disrupted every facet of our community and lives, including our education and childcare systems,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “It is more critical than ever as schools remain closed that families have access to resources to support at-home learning and that teachers have content at their disposal to support distance education with their students. The partnership with the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation to launch #WeRead is one important step to fill a great need to continue advancing the academic growth of our children and provide meaningful things for families to do together.”
Families and children can watch #WeRead videos, which are available in English, Spanish, Italian, Chinese and Arabic, on the Foundation’s YouTube account. Notable videos have been provided by Mayor Sylvester Turner; Bush family members: Neil Bush, Doro Bush Koch, Lauren Bush Lauren, Sarahbeth Bush, Lizzie Andrews, Ellie Leblond Sosa, Sam Bush Leblond and Clemmie Pierce. Foundation President Julie Finck; Ladies for Literacy Guild President Trish, Morille; Texans’ players Whitney Mercilus and Brennan Scarlet; former Texans’ player and children’s author Wade Smith; Washington Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman; professional golfer and grandson of Arnold Palmer Sam Saunders; local children’s authors Melissa Williams, Joy Sewing, Mehrnaz Gill, Chris Bridge, April Salazar and Joy Saxton; Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey and his wife Ellen; State Representative Anna Eastman; DJ Big Reeks, and more. Special support for #WeRead has been provided by the Foundation’s Ladies for Literacy Guild, LyondellBasell, Hess, Reliant, Stages, and University of Houston Advancing Community Engagement and Services Institute.
“Reading aloud to children is instrumental to their academic and socio-emotional development and can ignite a life-long love of reading,” said Dr. Julie Baker Finck, Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation President. “We are grateful to Mayor Turner, our Ladies for Literacy Guild, and the many ‘virtual volunteers’ who have contributed to the #WeRead initiative and recognized that despite being quarantined, we have not quit in making a difference in the lives of others.”
The amount of time children spend reading is directly correlated to reading achievement levels, and research further shows that economically disadvantaged children are susceptible to learning loss during summer months.
In addition to #WeRead, the Foundation provides resources and tips for parents and educators on their website to help support a child’s literacy development at home. For more information on how to support the #WeRead effort, visit www.BushHoustonLiteracy.org/WeRead.
About the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation
The Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation is a charitable organization formed by Neil and Maria Bush to carry forth First Lady Barbara Bush’s legacy in the literacy cause and to focus deeply on breaking the intergenerational cycle of low literacy in the Bush family’s hometown. Founded on Mrs. Bush’s belief, “If you help a person to read, then their opportunities in life will be endless,” the Barbara Bush Foundation’s mission is to improve lives through the power of literacy – the ability to read, write, speak clearly, and think critically.
The Foundation serves as the champion across the Greater Houston area for the literacy cause, raising awareness for the value and importance of literacy, mobilizing volunteers and resources to build critical capacity of community-based literacy providers, and investing in local literacy programs and services that support children and families to develop strong literacy skills for success. For more information, visit www.bushhoustonliteracy.org or follow us on Facebook at @bushhoustonlit,, Twitter @bushhoustonlit, Instagram @bushhoustonlit.