Verizon and SMART (Start Making A Reader Today) today named Gov. Kulongoski and pro football star Joey Harrington as literacy champions for Oregon.

Gov. Kulongoski, a long-time literacy advocate, will join Harrington’s parents at the Barnes Elementary School Library where he will be interviewed by 2nd and 3rd grade SMART students about the impact reading has had on his life. In addition, Gov. Kulongoski will read from one of his favorite SMART book-award selections, ‘Dog Breath’.

“Literacy has been a long-time passion of mine”, said Kulongoski. “Every Oregonian should have the opportunity to live up to their fullest potential and reading is the first step toward helping our children become successful adults.”

Harrington, an NFL quarterback and University of Oregon standout, is on the offense for literacy. “Reading is what gave me my start in life,” he said. “It opened the doors of football to me when I read about the great players and what motivated them. Literacy is an essential for personal and professional success.”

The Verizon Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Verizon Communications, and Verizon Reads have presented SMART with a combined gift of $26,862 to help raise awareness and funds throughout Oregon. The Verizon Foundation contributed$15,000, and Verizon Reads contributed $11,862 through the Check Into Literacy program, which allows Verizon local telephone customers to donate $1 each month to literacy programs in their state.

The Literacy Champion program is part of the Verizon Reads literacy awareness campaign. Verizon partners with celebrities nationwide to give literacy a familiar face, bring attention to a critical issue, and raise awareness and funds for the cause of literacy.

“Literacy is our focus at Verizon. Building understanding of the issues surrounding low literacy is a central goal of Verizon’s Literacy Champion program and is a major step toward a solution, as is raising funds to support organizations that combat low literacy with education,” said David Valdez, Verizon Northwest vice president of public affairs, policy and communications. “We are pleased to have Gov. Kulongoski and Joey Harrington as our Literacy Champions for Oregon.”

SMART Chief Executive Officer Mary Jubitz said, “We believe every child deserves the opportunity to become a reader. Unfortunately, not all children have the same opportunities. SMART is committed to bring this treasured opportunity to Oregon children who need extra help to develop reading skills and is proud to join Verizon and its newest literacy champions to accomplish this goal.”


SMART is Oregon’s leading nonprofit early literacy program, serving kindergartners through third graders at risk of low literacy and its negative consequences. Our vision is simple yet profound to transform our children’s future through reading.

SMART gives students the two things they need most to learn to read: adult attention and books. Caring adult volunteers read individually with two children for one hour a week during the school year. SMART also gives each child two free books every month to keep and read with their families, extending a culture of literacy and love of learning into the home.

Businesses, organizations and individuals provide the volunteers and funds needed to run the program. To learn more about the SMART program, visit or call 1-877-598-4633.

About Verizon

Verizon is committed to championing literacy in America. The company conducts a national campaign to increase community awareness and to generate additional funding and support for literacy programs that serve adults, children and families. Working under the banner of Verizon Reads, a public charity, the award-winning philanthropy program reaches out to the more than 40 million Americans who have low literacy skills. For more information on Verizon Reads, visit