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Read On

Lynda Keever
This year's Celebration of Reading fund-raising event in Naples marked another successful gathering filled with some particularly memorable moments. It began on a "high quote" from Barbara Bush who said the following:

"Can you imagine how thrilled I was when someone kindly sent me what I believe is the most respected, outstanding magazine in America. It's called Florida Trend, and this month's cover is about ... you guessed it ... the great governor of Florida."

The former first lady, mother of Gov. Jeb Bush and founder of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, has truly helped to make the Celebration of Reading a family affair; besides the Bush family, it includes a family of foundations and corporations that are making a commitment to Florida's family literacy programs.

A good report -- like Florida Trend's cover story on Gov. Bush's legacy -- creates a buzz. And so did bestselling authors Michael Crichton, Julianna Baggott and Jill Conner Browne, who read excerpts from their latest works to the 650 guests who attended the event.

Florida Trend has been one of the proud sponsors of the event since its inception, and it is always an honor to meet with key business leaders and other visionaries from around the state who are dedicated to improving the lives of Florida families, including prestigious individuals and groups such as Romero Britto, Cooper DDB, Carnival Cruise Lines, Comcast, the Florida Lottery, GE Energy, Scholastic, A.T.A.P. Companies, the Jay I. Kislak Foundation and Publix Super Markets Charities.

Gov. Bush announced at the event that more than $1.3 million was raised to benefit statewide programs under the Governor's Family Literacy Initiative, plus an additional $1.4 million in in-kind donations. Over the past six years, the program has raised more than $8 million cash and a similar amount in in-kind donations. Research is proving that these programs are working: Adults in Florida's programs have completion rates twice that of adult literacy programs in other states. Children who participate in the programs also experience significant academic gains.

A competent, educated and literate workforce is crucial if we are to compete successfully in today's global markets. As business and civic leaders, we should take personal responsibility for the success of our children and future generations.

Funding is crucial, but it alone won't stamp out illiteracy. We still need grass-roots literacy organizations, volunteers and mentors who are the foot soldiers in the war on illiteracy. We need to encourage families to become more involved because our teachers and school administrators can't be alone in this endeavor. When local communities become involved in these programs, the entire state benefits.

The fight against illiteracy won't be won in one chapter; it will involve many chapters, and like a great saga, it is likely to have a satisfying ending -- so read on.

The Volunteer Florida Foundation provides funding and support for the Governor's Family Literacy Initiative and other programs. For more information, log onto VolunteerFlorida.org.