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Nov. 12

The Vision of a President and First Lady Comes Alive at One America Houston

Today in Houston – where one out of five adults is functionally illiterate – the focus was on the city’s children.

one_america_houston_with_bushes.jpg
Sandra Ahlhorn (far left) and Amy Barnes (far right) display
their Daily Point of Light Award with President George H. W.
Bush and Barbara Bush.

President George H. W. Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush joined local child literacy advocates at the One America Houston tour stop to discuss what the community could do to help children succeed. And they came to honor two moms who in just a year have brought 100,000 donated books to children in Houston schools, where 80 percent of the district’s 203,000 students come from economically disadvantaged households.

Those moms – longtime friends Sandra Ahlhorn and Amy Barnes – had read the research: Kids who read at home do better at school. And kids from low-income families tend not to have books at home.

Ahlhorn and Barnes, today’s Daily Point of Light Award winners, set out last year just to make a small difference by holding book drives and soliciting book donations through social media. But with the help of Better World Books, a socially responsible business that has distributed millions of free books to charities worldwide, Ahlhorn and Barnes far exceeded their goal. Though their organization, Books Between Kids, they distributed books to children in 22 schools.

Before he and his mother, Mrs. Bush, presented the award to Ahlhorn and Barnes, Points of Light Chairman Neil Bush told the audience that middle-income households typically have 13 books per child. But in low-income neighborhoods, he said, there is one book for 300 kids. “Books are a luxury they can’t afford.”

one_america_houston_2.jpg
Volunteers sort books for Books Between Kids.

Mrs. Bush, who founded the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy 24 years ago, thanked Ahlhorn and Barnes “for making a true difference in the lives of children. She added: “Amy and Sandra are perfect examples of George’s vision,” alluding to her husband’s creation of the Daily Point of Light Award for people who change lives in their communities.

The event, which also included a panel discussion about child literacy, was the fifth tour stop of One America – a campaign led by Points of Light and Chase to bring people together to address the challenges of our time and to volunteer. (Read about the other tour stops here.)

The Houston stop closed this afternoon with a volunteer project at the Books Between Kids warehouse, where participants sorted books intended for children of Houston schools.

Malik Whitaker, a senior at Houston’s Sharpstown International School, showed up for his first volunteer experience.

“I’m glad to help so that books can get into the hands of those who don’t have them,” he said. “A mom might read with their 4- or 5-year-old because of something I’m helping to do today. I feel good about that, but better about the kid who gets to use his imagination and get ideas on what they want to be in life because of the books they will get from all these volunteers.” 

The next One America tour stop will be in Atlanta in January. To sign up for regular updates, go to www.one-america.org. Join the conversation on Twitter using #1America or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/joinoneamerica.

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