Houston Texans President Jamey Rootes kicked off the morning by calling on attendees to help United Way and the Texans make sure kids are developing strong reading skills and succeeding in school.
“We know that early grade reading is one the best predictors of children’s success in school, work and life. And still, here in Houston, less than 50% of third graders have the reading skills necessary for success in fourth grade,” Rootes said. “The future of our families, our businesses and our community depends on us preparing new generations for success. And, it starts with reading.”
Rootes read an excerpt from one of his favorite children’s books, “Green Eggs and Ham,” before talking with a young boy about reading and predicting that the Texans will make it to the Superbowl this year.
Glover Quin took the stage to talk about why he is leading the effort for the Texans to help United Way recruit volunteer readers, mentors and tutors. Quin told kids in the audience that the coolest thing you can be is smart, and asked them to help him make reading and being smart cool. Quin told kids that by reading and working hard, they can achieve anything.
“When I was a kid, I dreamed of becoming a football player,” Quin said. “My parents and my teachers and the people I looked up to told me that as long as I worked hard and did well in school, I could be anything I wanted to be. And so I did just that. I read and read and studied and studied and it turns out, they were right. I graduated from college and got the opportunity to come and play football for the Houston Texans. I worked hard and my dream came true.”
Quin read an excerpt from his kids’ favorite book, “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?,” before joining in a reading session with children.
Dorothy Ables, chief administrative officer for Spectra Energy Corp and 2012-13 United Way Community Campaign Chair, shared one of her favorite children’s books, “Madeline,” and talked about the importance of reading.
“When kids read, they build critical language and reasoning skills, but they also build a sense of curiosity about the world and a thirst for knowledge,” Ables said. “Reading helps kids develop the skills that will make them successful students, employees and citizens, but reading also helps them become confident and well-rounded individuals. United Way believes every child deserves that.”
Ables also told guests about United Way’s increased efforts to help kids achieve academic success. She praised United Way Reading Together, a pilot program United Way launched this fall, which pairs corporate volunteers with elementary school students to ensure that kids are reading at grade level by fourth grade—a key indicator of their future success.
United Way of Greater Houston President and CEO Anna M. Babin applauded attendees for their generous contributions to the book drive. Underscoring its importance, Babin shared a startling statistic: in middle-income neighborhoods the ratio of age-appropriate books per child is 13 to 1—that’s 13 books to every one child—while in low-income neighborhoods the ratio is one book for every 300 children. The 10,000-plus books collected at the reading rally will be donated to local youth organizations.
Babin talked to a group of children about their favorite books and read from “Each Day is New,” a book commemorating the first 10 years of United Way Bright Beginnings, United Way’s model early education program that helps children who might not otherwise have access to quality child care achieve critical developmental milestones and enter school ready to succeed.
Families had a chance to learn and have some fun at booths hosted by the Houston Texans, the Houston Public Library, PBS, Children’s Museum of Houston and Rice University. At the 2-1-1 Texas/United Way HELPLINE booth, guests listened to 2-1-1 calls, and at the United Way Bright Beginnings booth, they got a look at a Bright Beginnings classroom and some of the elements of Bright Beginnings’ innovative curriculum.
A captive audience watched as the Houston Children’s Chorus performed and Express Children’s Theatre entertained with scenes from their production of Pinocchio. Texans mascot TORO, the Texans cheerleaders and singer Kaitlyn K. helped rally the crowd around United Way and reading.
Special thanks to our Caring Champions who made the Readers Do Something About It Reading Rally possible: Spectra Energy, ExxonMobil, H-E-B, Anadarko, Bank of America, CenterPoint Energy, National Oilwell Varco, Shell Oil Company and Motiva Enterprises, TransCanada, WorleyParsons and Enbridge.
View a photo gallery of this event and watch our video recap.