Finding a Way to Promote Literacy in Difficult Times

The Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation televises the 26th Annual A Celebration of Reading: A Vision of Literacy for All

The Celebration

Originally scheduled for April 30, 2020, in the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, the  26th Annual A Celebration of Reading: A Vision of Literacy for All was transformed into an inspirational televised event due to the pandemic. Airing on Saturday, October 17, 2020, on KPRC-TV Channel 2 at 7 p.m., the one-hour program was hosted by Maria and Neil Bush, Chairs of the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation (Foundation). The commercial-free hour featured New York Times bestselling authors H.W. Brands, Kathy Reichs, John Grisham, Kevin Kwan, and Jean Becker.

The Story

Former President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush opened the program by warmly welcoming viewers. A video montage of George H. W. Bush and Barbara Bush followed, after which news anchor Dominique Sachse began the author conversations with her interview of author and anthropologist Kathy Reichs. Co-anchor Kris Gutierrez then spoke with American historian and author H. W. Brands. Anchor Christine Noel discussed the art of writing satire with Houston native Kevin Kwan and chief meteorologist Frank Billingsley chatted with Jean Becker, former Chief of Staff for President George H. W. Bush and ghostwriter of Pearls of Wisdom, the recently released book about Barbara Bush. Co-anchor Keith Garvin concluded the author's conversations with author John Grisham.

Maria and Neil Bush addressed Barbara Bush’s literacy legacy and the current literacy crisis in Houston. “It is alarming to us that nearly one in three Houston adults is functionally illiterate and almost 40 percent of area third-graders fail to meet minimum reading standards year after year,” said Mr. Bush. Reiterating his mother’s belief that “If you help a person to read, then their opportunities in life will be endless,” he encouraged viewers to advance the literacy cause by volunteering or donating. 

The Moments

In addition to the exceptional author lineup, a host of notable figures joined the conversation, including Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, who unveiled his literacy vision for Houston, and bestselling authors T.D. Jakes, Jeff Kinney, Brad Meltzer, and James Patterson. Grammy award-winning singer/songwriter Lee Greenwood, America’s Got Talent finalist comedian Preacher Lawson, Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Mary Griffin, the Texas Southern University Choir, and the Houston Children’s Chorus entertained viewers throughout the presentation. Also during the show, the Foundation spotlighted its family literacy and reading mentorship programs: My Home Library, Third Ward Schools Initiatives, Ladies for Literacy Guild, and Young Professionals Group. 

This year’s A Celebration of Reading was produced in partnership with KPRC-TV Channel 2 and Ward & Ames. Phillips 66 served as the title sponsor for the fifth year in a row, continuing its leadership position in the community to promote the literacy cause. Quanex Foundation served as a presenting sponsor of the event for the third year in a row. Other significant program sponsors included ConocoPhillips, Kathrine McGovern/McGovern Foundation, Greg and Gail Garland, Enbridge Energy, Consulate General of the State of Qatar, Shell, Sue Smith, and Limor and Stuart Smith, and Marathon Oil.

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.

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