Maureen Varnon
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First Book
Jennifer Kaplan
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Arbor Day Celebration Yields More than 100,000 Children’s Books Donated to Gulf Coast Residents and Children in Need Nationwide

Mississippi First Lady Marsha Barbour and Rolling Stones keyboardist and tree farmer Chuck Leavell to read book and plant trees for children to “Grow Trees, Grow Readers”

Pass Christian, MS (April 17, 2006) – To commemorate Arbor Day, children in the devastated Gulf Coast region, and children in need nationwide, will receive a donation of more than 100,000 books made possible by First Book through a generous donation from The Abundant Forests Alliance (AFA). The Arbor Day donation celebrates the many products, specifically books, created from the renewable forest industry.

Mississippi First Lady Marsha Barbour and Chuck Leavell, Rolling Stones keyboardist and independent tree farmer, will join AFA and First Book on April 26, 2006 at 10:30am at the DeLisle/Pass Christian Elementary School in Pass Christian, Mississippi. Mr. Leavell will read The Tree Farmer, one of several books on First Book’s Children’s Environmental Reading List ( Books are among the 5,000 products made from trees each year.

“I can't think of a better way to celebrate Arbor Day and benefit the children of the Gulf Coast than with this partnership of First Book and The Abundant Forests Alliance. Planting a tree to supply the paper for a book that will plant the seed of knowledge in a child is an important step in ensuring a successful future for the State of Mississippi,” says First Lady Marsha Barbour.

“Watching a child learn to read is like watching a miracle unfold,” says Chuck Leavell. “Paper for books is one of the greatest gifts we reap from our forests, and knowing that forests are renewable ensures that we will be able to continue to cultivate opportunities for children to make reading part of their daily routine for generations to come.” The AFA website ( features tips and ideas to encourage parents and children to create opportunities to read together.

While research shows that the single critical factor determining whether a child becomes a reader is the presence of books in the home, a staggering 61 percent of low-income families have no age-appropriate books for their children. The donation is part of the AFA’s sponsorship of Book Relief, a First Book initiative and the nation’s most comprehensive program to distribute new books to schools, libraries and individuals devastated by the Gulf Coast hurricanes.

The books distributed through the Arbor Day event will be donated to the children for them to keep. Continuing to use trees to create products such as books is one of the best ways to keep forests flourishing. To sustain forestry resources, the wood and paper products industry plants two trees for every tree harvested.

Kyle Zimmer, President of First Book, applauds the initiative. “This event co-sponsored by the Abundant Forests Alliance is taking place in conjunction with Arbor Day, a day in which we remember that trees give us books and the more than 1.7 million trees planted every day ensure that with the help of committed supporters like AFA, we can make a lasting difference. Our partnership will mean a brighter future for thousands and thousands of children in need.”

About First Book
First Book is a national nonprofit organization that gives children from low-income families the opportunity to read and own their first new books. In neighborhoods across the country, First Book Advisory Boards unite leaders from all sectors of the community to identify the most effective community-based literacy programs reaching children living at or below the poverty line and provide them with First Book grants of free books and educational materials. The First Book National Book Bank, a subsidiary program of First Book, is the first centralized system that enables publishers to donate books and educational materials online to reach millions of children who need them the most. First Book has distributed more than 40 million new books to children in need in thousands of communities nationwide. To learn more about First Book, please visit

About AFA
Members of the wood and paper products industry in North America have formed the Abundant Forests Alliance. We share information with consumers and customers about the many ways our industry is helping to ensure that with proper care and management there will always be abundant forests. We also listen and respond to environmental concerns about our forests and products. Through sustainable forestry practices, improved recycling and new technologies, our industry is helping to maintain the delicate balance between supplying the wood and paper products people need and giving the forest what it needs to flourish. By working together to renew, reuse and respect our forest resources, we can balance the needs of people with the needs of nature so forests can remain abundant.

Our members include Anthony Forest Products Company | Georgia-Pacific | Green Diamond Resource Company | International Paper | MeadWestvaco | Monadnock | Plum Creek | The Westervelt Company | Weyerhaeuser