by Priyanka Advani
Priyanka Advani is a Futures Associate at Franklin Templeton Investments in San Mateo, CA and a member of Jumpstart’s San Francisco Bay Area Young Professionals Board.
If you asked me what my favorite childhood book was, it would be hard to give one answer. I loved them all – everything from Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar, to Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, to everything ever published by Dr. Seuss. I was a voracious reader, with an active library card, as evidenced by the vast collection of books that littered every surface of my bedroom. My parents encouraged my appetite for the written word, and by the age of four, I was reading on my own (a fact that no doubt delighted my parents, since they no longer had to endure my pleas of “one more book” before bedtime).
Other than the convenience factor for my parents, and my ability to entertain myself with nothing more than a book, the more profound effects of my affinity for books were not apparent until much later. In middle school, the vocabulary tests that many of my classmates abhorred were one of my favorite weekly activities. My high school counselor asked how I knew some of the “big words” I used in my college application essays, and I replied that I had always known what those words meant (and indeed, it felt that way). Even though I thought I was just reading as a fun way to pass the time, in retrospect, I can see what far-reaching effects it has had on my language and academic skills.
During my freshman year in college, my roommate got involved with Jumpstart as a Corps member and coincidentally, that same year my father joined Jumpstart’s San Francisco local Advisory Board. These two events undoubtedly drew my attention to Jumpstart and as I started to become more familiar with its mission, I was drawn to its purpose and its direct work with children. It is heartbreaking that so many young people across the country, especially those in low-income neighborhoods, lack the resources and support to develop the love for reading that I have been so privileged to have from day one. Even more distressing is the fact that without developing these critical language and literacy skills early, these children will start kindergarten already significantly behind their peers from more affluent neighborhoods, and unlikely to catch up academically – oftentimes leading to future life challenges like unemployment, incarceration, teen pregnancy, etc.
Recently, I came across an opportunity to volunteer for Jumpstart myself, through my job at Franklin Templeton Investments, one of Jumpstart’s national sponsors. Through our employee volunteer program, I helped plan a Jumpstart “work party,” bringing more than 50 employees together to create vocabulary books and activity kits for preschool children in need. It was inspiring to see so many employees working together to support early education, and I feel lucky to work for a company that realizes the importance of supporting nonprofits such as Jumpstart, not just with a check, but in a more holistic way, with employee time and in-kind resources.
As I continue to volunteer with Jumpstart, I’m particularly excited to participate in Jumpstart’s Read for the Record® campaign this fall to set a new record for reading the same book on the same day, while showing support for Jumpstart’s efforts to address the early childhood education crisis. After all, I want all children to experience the same joy I discovered for reading early-on. I hope you’ll join me on October 3rd to put children first. Pledge to read Otis with a child in your life in celebration of this year’s campaign.