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The Common Goal of Literacy Brings Houstonians Together Virtually and In Person

The Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation safely continues its important work of keeping the issue of literacy at the forefront with the 27th Annual A Celebration of Reading

Photo Credits: Jenny Antill, Dave Rossman, Hung Truong

The Celebration

The evening program of the 27th Annual A Celebration of Reading was hosted by Maria and Neil Bush, chairs of the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation, on April 29, 2021 at the Post Oak Hotel and via live stream. The author’s luncheon was held the same afternoon at the stunning home of Terri and John Havens and was hosted by Maria and Neil Bush and Terri and John Havens.


The Story

At the evening program, over 340 guests were greeted in person at the Post Oak Hotel and approximately 200 sponsors were greeted virtually. Dominique Sachse of KPRC Channel 2 began the occasion by welcoming guests, including this year’s stellar line-up of bestselling authors: former President George W. Bush, Mark Sullivan, Peter Baker, Susan B. Glasser, Elin Hilderbrand, and Matthew McConaughey who appeared virtually.


Maria and Neil Bush followed the welcome by recognizing the fact that Laura Bush personally created A Celebration of Reading to raise awareness and funds to advance the crucial cause of literacy. “We must create a sense of urgency around literacy issues. Undoubtedly, the work of the foundation to expand reading tutoring and summer literacy programs, equip underserved children with books to read at home, empower parents with the skills to support their child’s reading success at home, and boost adult literacy rates are more important now than ever before,” noted Neil. The pair also thanked Phillips 66 for serving as the Title Sponsor for the sixth year in a row and Hushang and Shahla Ansary and Quanex Foundation for serving as Presenting Sponsors.


During the author’s luncheon, guests enjoyed a sumptuous three-course meal catered by City Kitchen, which was served on the magnificent grounds of the Havens’ European-styled home. Neil Bush opened the proceedings by thanking attendees for their dedicated support of the foundation. He also thanked the Havens for hosting the event and the authors for participating in A Celebration of Reading, especially at this time.


The Moments

Prior to the evening program, guests were treated to a compilation of videos from the past, which included a tribute to former First Lady Barbara Bush, her strategy to tackle literacy with J. J. Watt, and a celebration of her life with her husband.

Throughout the evening program, guests enjoyed two videos highlighting the foundations work and programs. As well, each of this year’s featured authors shared stories about their personal experiences with writing, their motivation, and their inspiration.


As if that weren’t enough, Houston-area natives and season 19 The Voice finalists, John Holiday and Desz, performed together for the first time in an epic conclusion to the evening. Returning to the stage afterward, Neil and Maria Bush and Dominique Sachse presented former Secretary of State James A. Baker III with a surprise birthday cake to celebrate his 91st birthday, which had fallen the day before. Guests left with a gift bag of books from each of the featured authors to enjoy and remember the evening by.


The Foundation’s media partner, KPRC Channel 2, will broadcast a one-hour commercial-free version of the program on Saturday, May 8, 2021 at 7 p.m. CST.

The event raised over $1.9 million to advance the cause of literacy.


Evening Guests: President George W. Bush; Mark Sullivan; Peter Baker; Susan B. Glasser; Elin Hilderbrand; Neil and Maria Bush; Julie Baker Finck and Ron Finck; Susan Baker and Secretary James A. Baker, III; Shahla and Hushang Ansary; Al Carnrite; Joselyn Tego and Jeff Carnrite; Cathy and Joe Cleary; Melanie and Jerry Martin; Dominique Sachse Florescu and Nick Florescu; Sidney Faust; Betty and John Hrncir; Paige Fertitta; Kathrine McGovern; Terri and John Havens; Lisa and Mark Jakel; Annette and George Strake, Jr.; Alice and Keith Mosing; Kathy and Marty Goossen; Laurie and Mark Lashier; Terri and Greg Ebel; Martha and Mark Carnes; Iris and Bill Griffiths; and Ginger Blanton.


Luncheon Guests: Peter Baker, Susan B. Glasser, Mark Sullivan, Elin Hilderbrand, Maria and Neil Bush, Terri and John Havens, Jennifer and George Wilson, Melanie and Jerry Martin, Betsy Sullivan, Iris, and Bill Griffiths, Lisa and Mark Jakel, Julie Baker Finck and Ron Finck, Caroline and Paul Cornett, Pierce Bush, Eddie Cohen, Rebecca Skiba, Kathy Sauvé, and Deborah Stavis.


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.


For more information about the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation, please visit or follow them on Facebook at @bushhoustonlit on Twitter @bushhoustonlit and on Instagram @bushhoustonlit.

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