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VISA Relaunches RIF Promotion

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Today in the nation’s capital where — President Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton have made reading a national priority — Visa U.S.A. is launching “Read Me a Story,” a national program designed to help address America’s reading crisis. The program, now in its second year, benefits Reading Is Fundamental(R) (RIF(R)), America’s oldest and largest nonprofit children’s literacy organization, with a guaranteed $1 million minimum contribution, based on Visa(R) card sales transactions from November 1 through December 31, 1997.

Why reading? It’s been documented that to succeed, kids need to read. According to recent studies by the U.S. Department of Education and the Carnegie Corporation,

* More than 40% of fourth graders read below the basic level for their grade (A)

* Reading aloud to children helps stimulate brain development, yet only 50% of infants and toddlers are routinely read to by their parents (B)

Visa U.S.A.’s president and chief executive officer, Carl Pascarella, said “Visa is proud to promote a program that we believe will truly make a difference for our children’s and our nation’s future.”

Today, Anthony Edwards, one of the stars of the hit television series “ER,” will participate in a special program to announce America’s First Reading Checkup and kick off the second annual nationwide musical performance tour of ten of America’s favorite storybook characters who will perform today for 800 local Washington D.C. children at the Andrew J. Mellon Auditorium.

VISA INTRODUCES AMERICA’S FIRST READING CHECKUP GUIDE

This year’s Visa “Read Me a Story” campaign features the introduction of America’s first “Reading Checkup Guide.” Developed by Visa and RIF in consultation with some of America’s leading educators and reviewed and endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the Visa “Read Me a Story” “Reading Checkup Guide” covers six stages of early reading development and is designed to give parents and caring adults practical information about how to help their children grow up reading.

“The AAP endorses the ‘Reading Checkup Guide’ because we feet strongly that parents should have all the tools they need to help their children become strong readers,” said AAP president Robert E. Hannemann, M.D. More than seven million copies of the Reading Checkup Guide will be distributed through AAP pediatricians’ offices, Visa member financial institutions and select merchant locations, at Visa “Read Me a Story” tour performance sites (see below), and through the “Read Me a Story” web site at http://www.visa.com/readme.

“Far too many children are growing up without the reading skills they need to succeed in school and in life,” said Dr. William Trueheart, president of RIF. “The reading crisis in America exists in every community in the U.S. With Visa’s help, and the ‘Reading Checkup Guide,’ our aim is to reach children and families across the nation.”

NATIONAL VISA “READ ME A STORY” PERFORMANCE TOUR

This year’s expanded Visa “Read Me a Story” program includes three performance tours simultaneously visiting different regions of the country bringing a dynamic, 30-minute live performance with original songs and a special story-reading to thousands of America’s children. The tour will visit schools and malls in 24 major cities across the country, as well as many smaller cities and towns from October 29 through December 21. The tour will also spotlight a whimsical “reading doctor” character named Dr. Readwell, who will perform reading checkups using the “Reading Checkup Guide.”

In addition to Dr. Readwell, the Visa “Read Me a Story” performance tour will feature ten of America’s favorite storybook characters, including Angelina Ballerina, Babar, Clifford the Big Red Dog, Curious George, Jesse Bear, Little Red Riding Hood, Lyle the Crocodile, Mother Goose, Peter Pan, and Pippi Longstocking.

VISA MEMBERS & MERCHANTS PARTICIPATE IN THE “READ ME A STORY” PROGRAM

The “Read Me a Story” program is a multi-million dollar integrated campaign, making it Visa’s largest-ever national cause-related marketing program. Visa is supporting this program with a $20 million advertising campaign designed to build awareness of the reading crisis and the “Read Me a Story” program.

Visa member financial institutions and select merchants are also supporting the campaign through 50 million cardholder statement inserts, point-of-purchase signage, and sponsorship of reading events nationwide.

The cast and crew of the Visa “Read Me a Story” Performance Tour will travel via United Airlines, the official airline of the tour, and stay at Choice Hotels International, the official hotel of the tour. United’s involvement will include a variety of in-flight promotions, and special appearances of the “Read Me a Story” Performance Tour characters at select Choice Hotel locations. For performance information and tour dates, call 888-703-READ (703-7323) or visit the Visa web site at http://www.visa.com.

Reading Is Fundamental is the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit children’s literacy organization, dedicated to inspiring children to read. Serving more than 3.74 million children through local projects conducted at more than 17,000 sites in all 50 states, RIF has the help of more than 219,000 volunteers. RIF supplies children with more than 10.5 million books annually and has provided families with more than 173 million books since its founding in 1966.

Visa is the preferred payment brand and the largest consumer payment system worldwide. It plays a pivotal role in advancing new payment products and technologies to benefit its 21,000 member financial institutions, their cardholders, and the global economy. Visa is the only consumer payment system to facilitate $1 trillion worth of purchases of goods and services in a fiscal year. Visa’s nearly 600 million cards are accepted at more than 14 million worldwide locations, including 370,000 ATMs in the Visa/PLUS Global ATM Network. Visa’s Internet address is http://www.visa.com.

(A) NAEP 1994 Reading Card for the Nation and the States, U.S. Dept. of Education, 1996.

(B)Starting Points, the 1994 report of the Carnegie Corporation

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