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    H-E-B Launches Early Childhood Literacy Initiative

    Its goal is to educate parents about the importance of reading to children

    H-E-B has launched an early childhood literacy initiative to educate parents and caregivers about the importance of reading to children a minimum of three times per week and to provide families with the tools and resources they need to prepare their early learners for school.

    The H-E-B Read 3 campaign is the brainchild of H-E-B CEO and chairman Charles Butt who has a strong commitment to education. In Texas, almost one third of the state’s children entering the first grade are living in poverty while one in four Texas preschool children aren’t reading to on a regular basis.

    “Research has shown a strong correlation between poverty and reading proficiency, decreased educational attainment and high school drop out rates,” said Kate Rogers, H-E-B VP of communication and engagement. “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 early years are so critical to the development of vocabulary and language skills. With the Read 3 program, we want to encourage parents to take an active role in ensuring that all children have an opportunity to begin their school experience with an equal opportunity to succeed.”

    The H-E-B Read 3 campaign has three basic components — an in-store learning and shopping experience for customers, access to affordable books, and community outreach.

    In-Store Experience: The Read 3 campaign begins with an in-store event scheduled for September 7 through September 20. During this two-week celebration, customers will find information and tools at their H-E-B store that will show them how to turn their shopping trip into a fun learning opportunity for their children. Activities for the children will include in-store scavenger hunts and activity pages, H-E-Buddy story times and the launch of the H-E-Buddy Book of the Month Club. Starting in September, H-E-Buddy will select a book each month. The chosen selection will be offered at H-E-B for 40 percent off its regular retail price. Children will be able to earn points and rewards for reading and participating in the book club.

    During the two-week event, parents can also expect to take advantage of special savings that can place up to 10 free books in their hands. In honor of the Read 3 campaign launch, H-E-B will run seven Combo Locos and one Meal Deal where customers can either buy a product and receive a free book or buy a book and get a free product. One of the free books to be featured is 1-2-3 Si. The first in a series of four, this book was made possible through a partnership with the San Antonio Public Library Foundation, the San Antonio Museum of Art and Trinity University Press. It is a bilingual counting book featuring real artifacts from exhibits at the San Antonio Museum of Art.

    Also for the Read 3 event, H-E-B will offer a Buy One, Give One book promotion. For every customer who purchases a select Random House book from now through the end of the year, H-E-B and Random House will donate a book to First Book, a non-profit organization that provides new books to children in need. Since 1992, First Book has distributed more than 85 million books and educational resources to programs and schools serving children throughout the United States and Canada.

    Rounding out the Read 3 in-store activities, stores will utilize their demo stations to distribute bookmarks from local libraries that encourage customers to visit their local library to sign-up for library card. These sample stations will also have information available on the H-E-B Excellence in Education Awards encouraging customers to nominate their teachers, principals and school districts for a 2012 award on heb.com.

    Access to Affordable Books: Understanding that the first step in inspiring a love for reading is ensuring that all children have access to books, beginning with September’s in-store event, H-E-B will host a book drive with the aim to collect one million books.

    The community will be encouraged to donate new or gently-used children’s books at their neighborhood H-E-B. The collected books will be sorted and distributed back into the community through donations to non-profit organizations. The collected books will also be distributed at H-E-B’s annual Feast of Sharing dinners to all children who attend the free holiday events.

    In addition, H-E-B plans to open 10 literacy centers in 10 of its stores by fall 2011. Currently, the company has two literacy centers — one in Tomball, Texas and the other in Laredo. The in-store literacy centers feature age-appropriate tables and chairs, a stage and a children’s library section that invites parents and their children to take a break from shopping and enjoy reading a book together. The literacy centers serve as a community hub for in-store literary events such as story times, character appearances and book signings with popular authors. They are also a great spot to find information on local literacy programs and services. The first new literacy center will open in San Antonio at the H-E-B Plus! located at 6818 South Zarzamora on October 7. Goosebumps’ author R.L. Stine will be on-hand for the grand opening to greet fans and read a special selection.

    Community Outreach: Through a partnership with the Brownsville Independent School District (BISD), the University of Texas at Brownsville and local non-profit organizations, H-E-B is piloting a six-week program in the Brownsville community on eight BISD campuses. The pilot enlists the help of community volunteers to teach weekly instructional classes to parents and children on nutrition and literacy. H-E-B is providing the funding for creation of the curriculum and the needed program materials. As families participate in the program, they will receive free books, a small book shelf, a recipe box, a library card and referral to additional support services. At the close of the pilot, the program will be evaluated and following any needed adjustments, H-E-B hopes to expand the program into the other communities it serves.

    H-E-B operates 332 stores in Texas and Mexico.

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