H-E-B kicks off literacy campaign

Sept. 6, 2011 at 4:06 a.m.

H-E-B unveiled its statewide campaign to promote early childhood literacy on Tuesday.

By partnering with local school districts and libraries, the grocery chain hopes to educate parents and caregivers about the importance of reading to children at least three times a week.

"More than half a million Texas children ... aren't getting early exposure to reading and the pleasures, joys and learning that come from it," said Shelley Parks, H-E-B's manager of public affairs. "Studies also show that children who are not reading by the end of first grade have more than an 80 percent chance of never becoming a proficient reader."

The program, called Read 3, creates an in-store learning and shopping experience, access to affordable books and community outreach.

With a goal of collecting 1 million books, Mayor Will Armstrong dropped the first book - Dr. Seuss' "Green Eggs and Ham" - into the bin in Victoria.

"I'm a product of a family that loved to read," Armstrong said at the kickoff event Wednesday. "Times have changed. They've changed drastically, and that makes reading even more important now than it has ever been."

Also at the event at the Navarro Street location was the Victoria Public Library's director, Dayne Williams-Capone.

She said she was excited to hear about the H-E-B campaign.

"I thought it fit perfectly with our strategic plan," Williams-Capone said. "One of our biggest priorities is that 0 to 4 age."

Parks offered some statistics, reinforcing the reason H-E-B prioritized reading.

She highlighted the correlation between poverty and reading proficiency, decreased educational attainment and high school drop-out rates, noting that nearly one-third of Texas first graders are living in poverty.

By the time these children enter kindergarten, they will have been exposed to only one-third as many words and will have less than five age-appropriate books in their homes versus more than 50 books for upper income kids.

"Children that read have a desire to learn," Parks said. "Less than half of all Texas children under the age of 5 are in a formal care system, so a lot of them don't have access to being read to."

Along with the book collection, the Read 3 program plans to open more literacy centers in their stores, create a library membership drive, conduct learning games in stores and partner books with product giveaways.



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