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Encouraging readers to grow

CenterPoint Energy promotes early literacy skills in at-risk children

Encouraging readers to grow
Encouraging readers to grow
Children who are exposed to reading early grow up to have better literacy skills and greater academic success.

Helping children reach their full potential sets in motion a cascade of positive change. Each child served will grow to share the fullness of their talents. Each family will be stronger, each community more robust.

These goals are at the heart of CenterPoint Energy’s philanthropy and have led them to partner with Reach Out and Read through the Children’s Learning Institute at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston. This program seeks to improve literacy skills by working with pediatricians to promote the role of reading in young children’s lives.

Medical providers participating in Reach Out and Read share a free book with patients from 6 months to 5 years old. During routine checkups, pediatricians model reading aloud to children and discuss with caregivers the importance of reading to developing minds.

“Many young children don’t have access to books. Pediatric teams see kids regularly, so they have a special opportunity to teach them about the value of reading and send books into their homes,” says Jocelyn McConnell, MEd, Director of Reach Out and Read-Texas.

“Intervening when children are very young leads to big benefits,” McConnell adds. “Language skills are the precursor for school success and, ultimately, a lifetime of success.”

CenterPoint Energy has been a staunch supporter of Reach Out and Read since 2014. In that time, they have contributed to the program’s serving 60,000 children in communities across Houston and East Texas.

“We are very grateful to have CenterPoint Energy as a partner,” says McConnell. “They make it possible for an incredible number of children to have books in their homes and be able to hold them in their hands.”

In conjunction with the Houston Mayor’s Complete Communities Initiative, which seeks to strengthen local neighborhoods, CenterPoint Energy bolstered its commitment to the program in 2021. The company’s recent grant will send an additional 17,000 books to children in underserved areas, as well as provide training to pediatric staff.

This increased support will benefit clinics across Houston, including the Alief/Westwood, Near Northside, Kashmere Gardens, and Gulfton areas. “One of our top priorities is helping underrepresented communities, which is exactly where this program focuses,” says Alicia Dixon, Director of Community Relations at CenterPoint Energy.

Literacy programs have long been a priority for CenterPoint Energy, and Reach Out and Read’s unique approach of working with pediatricians to encourage reading made it a clear choice for their support.

“It is important to us to get books into the hands of children so they can develop the skills they will need in school and beyond. By encouraging reading time between parents and children, the program also strengthens family bonds,” Alicia says.

“By supporting families at their core, we’re supporting the foundations of the community,” McConnell adds.

CenterPoint Energy has been partnering with UTHealth Houston for more than 30 years. While much of their philanthropy during the Many Faces. One Mission. campaign has focused on Reach Out and Read, their previous commitments empowered education and research at Cizik School of Nursing at UTHealth Houston and The Brown Foundation Institute of Molecular Medicine for the Prevention of Human Diseases at McGovern Medical School.

“CenterPoint Energy and UTHealth Houston share the same simple but essential goal of wanting to improve people’s lives and well-being,” says June Deadrick, who serves as Director of Government Affairs at CenterPoint Energy and on the Executive Committee of the UTHealth Houston Development Board. “We invest in initiatives that build a strong foundation for tomorrow.”

To maximize its philanthropic impact, the company established the CenterPoint Energy Foundation, which began awarding grants in 2021 across the six states they serve. The foundation directs resources to programs that promote education and community vitality.

“CenterPoint Energy has a long, proud history of being involved in the wide range of communities in which our employees live. The vibrancy of our communities is important to everyone’s success,” says Alicia.

“We depend on philanthropic partnerships to operate our program, and without CenterPoint Energy’s generosity, we would not be able to help as many children as we do,” McConnell says.

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