On October 8, 2009, we aim to double that number in a single day. Together with record-setters everywhere we’ll be reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle. In addition to hosting reading events with friends, colleagues, and educators from around the world, we aim to raise funds to support Jumpstart’s essential year-round work with preschool children in low-income communities across the United States.
This year’s efforts come in direct response to what we learned by conducting the first “Pearson Foundation Early Childhood Education Perception” poll – a nationwide survey that explores perceptions surrounding the reading inequality gap that exists between children in low-income homes and their more affluent peers. The survey found that far too few Americans understand the important connection between early childhood literacy skills and a life of sustained learning and success. Of U.S. residents polled, 95% were unaware of the long-term importance of reading to children between the ages of three and five; 73% wrongly believe that unprepared kindergarteners will catch up in elementary school; and 53% were unaware that nearly half of low-income children start first grade with reading skills up to two years behind their peers’. The conclusions were simple: we need to give every child an equal chance to succeed, and we need to continue to spread the word.
Part of this effort includes donating more than 230,000 special-edition copies of the children’s classic at the heart of this year’s campaign. Thanks to the Penguin Group, a special Campaign Edition of Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillarhas been created just for Jumpstart’s Read for the Record. On the morning of October 8, the book – which again this year features an introduction by Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira, as well as commentary by LL Cool J and Mary-Louise Parker – will be featured on NBC’s TODAY show with a host of celebrity readers. For the first time, we’re also welcoming Wal-Mart to the Read for the Record campaign, as the program’s official retail partner.
Also on October 8, we’ll be marching down Fifth Avenue in New York City and hosting events in Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. We’re especially looking forward to our kick-off event in Washington, D.C., where together with the USO we’ll host reading events for children and families of U.S. service people who are stationed overseas. We’ve been working to engage leaders from hundreds of school districts nationwide; to organize statewide reading events; and to bring governors, mayors, and city officials together across the country to involve more public and school libraries than ever before.