Washington, D.C. — The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy hosted its 2021 National Celebration of Reading on Thursday, October 21, 2021, at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. This signature event brought together Bush family members, bestselling authors and entertainers, and special guests including Mateo Askaripour, Eva Chen, Meena Harris, Leslie Jordan and Tim Shriver to advance the Barbara Bush Foundation’s vital mission.
“COVID has been the fight of our lives as a country and a people – especially for the 130 million adults who essentially read below a sixth-grade level. That’s more than half of our adult population held back by their unmet literacy needs. This means that they struggle to do things so many of us take for granted like follow COVID protocols, apply for a job or help their kids log onto Zoom. If you can read, write and comprehend, you can navigate your life with dignity,” stated British A. Robinson, president and CEO of the Barbara Bush Foundation.
Robinson continued, “We’re using every tool we have to conquer low literacy for good and where the tools we need don’t exist, we’re inventing them. In the face of COVID, we’ve doubled down – combining cutting-edge innovation with our 30-plus years of experience.”
The Barbara Bush Foundation hosted the National Celebration of Reading, emceed by Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Jonathan Capehart, to promote awareness of low literacy in the United States and raise support for the Foundation’s work providing family literacy services to parents and children across the United States.
“Many people are surprised to learn that the greatest determinant of a child’s academic success isn’t their neighborhood or income level: It’s their mother’s level of education. So, we intentionally design our literacy programs to be multigenerational, whether it’s teens helping mentor younger children in reading or parents committing to read to their kids. We know that when the whole family is engaged, the whole family benefits, too,” said Doro Bush Koch, daughter of President George H.W. Bush and former first lady Barbara Bush, and honorary chair of the Barbara Bush Foundation. “And in this moment, when so many families in America have been through so much hardship and struggle, literacy can be the springboard to a brighter future. Literacy unlocks self-sufficiency and full participation in society. Literacy opens the door to opportunity empowerment and hope.”
Dr. Carla Hayden, the first woman and first African American to serve as Librarian of Congress, along with Doro Bush Koch, presented Barbara Bush National Literacy Honors Awards to LeVar Burton and the LeBron James Family Foundation. This award is given to recognize outstanding achievements and contributions toward advancing family literacy.
Additional remarks were delivered by Mateo Askaripour, author of Black Buck, who stated, “We are here tonight in the name of helping more adults read and write. But, beyond that, we are here to ensure that people remember that they exist, that they deserve the same opportunities as everyone else to succeed, and, most important, that they are of value,” Askaripour shared. “And one of the surest ways of creating change – for ourselves and others – is through giving people the tools to thrive.”
Emmy award-winning actor and comedian Leslie Jordan closed out the evening with remarks and a musical performance. “I am a bookworm. I am that kid who would stand for the book mobile in Chattanooga, Tennessee every Saturday morning. It just opened me up to a really, really amazing world,” shared Jordan. “What would life be like without reading?” Though better known for his role on Will & Grace and other television programs, Jordan has recently published a memoir and released an album.
About the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy: The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy has been the nation’s leading advocate for family literacy for more than three decades. Established by former First Lady Barbara Bush in 1989, the Foundation is a public charity dedicated to creating a stronger, more equitable America in which everyone can read, write and comprehend in order to navigate the world with dignity. To learn more, visit www.BarbaraBush.org.