PORTLAND - U.S. Bancorp, in the second year of a $500,000 U.S. Bancorp Foundation commitment to Start Making A Reader Today (SMART), plans events throughout Oregon, including Pendleton, aimed at attracting donors and volunteers.

The fund-raisers began in Feb. 13 at Medford and end April 29 in Klamath Falls.

In between, bank volunteers and executives are joining SMART leaders for events in Portland, Eugene, McMinnville, Newberg, Astoria, Bend, Coos Bay, Roseburg, Tillamook, Corvallis and Pendleton, in that order.

SMART is a non-profit, volunteer-based program that works in partnership with Oregon public schools. Since 1992, SMART has served more than 55,000 children, donated more than 1 million books and coordinated more than 1.5 million volunteer hours. This year, more than 9,000 adult volunteers are reading with nearly 12,000 children across the state.

"With the fiscal crisis facing the state and public schools it was obvious that US Bancorp could make a tremendous impact by making literacy our top funding priority and nurturing good reading habits among Oregon's future leaders," said Linda Wright, community relations manager for US Bank in Oregon.

Independent research made possible by US Bancorp has shown that students who participate in SMART develop key reading skills significantly faster than their peers and maintain these gains after leaving the program. Fifth-graders who participated in SMART are 60 percent more likely to reach the state reading benchmark than similar students who did not have SMART.

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