by Elisa Villaneuva Beard
Elisa Villanueva Beard is the co-CEO of Teach for America.
It’s a well-known statistic: the average low-income child has heard 32 million fewer words than a higher income child by age four. Poor kindergartners start school 60% behind their affluent peers.
It would be tempting to know this and give up.
It would be tempting to consider the facts and land on the sobering reality that poverty sets children back before they even step inside a school building.
But I’ve known the teachers who have changed students’ lives despite their circumstances; I contend that despite its potent effects, a child’s zip code doesn’t need to determine her life outcome.
More and more, we’re seeing that early childhood efforts can be a game-changer in determining a student’s success in school. For this reason, I’m thrilled that Teach For America is partnering with Jumpstart this year during their Read for the Record campaign.
The Jumpstart Corps members who go into preschool classrooms each day and read to children are part of the efforts for change. I’ve been pleased to see many of them continue their work in classrooms through TFA and beyond.
Not only do Jumpstart’s volunteers engage in the connective, crucial act of reading to a small group of children, but they lead literacy activities that develop critical thinking skills. They push kids toward the high standards they deserve.
This year, during Read for the Record, thousands of current and former Jumpstart Corps members will be reading Otis. My three boys, my husband and I have enjoyed past Read for the Record picks like The Very Hungry Caterpillar and The Snowy Day, and we’re looking forward to sharing a new classic this year.
Otis, the book that millions of children and adults will read on Thursday, may not change lives on its own. But with Jumpstart, it’s beginning to. Read for the Record is inspiring because of the commitment dedicated adults are making to get involved in the lives of America’s kids. It’s a promise that we know we must live up to.
When we Read for the Record, we promise that at least one more child reads one more book than they had the day before. Here, the power of the collective is astounding—last year, over two million people read Ladybug Girl and the Bug Squad. This year, I’m hoping that number jumps to three million.
Three million people—not only acknowledging the importance of preschool literacy, but acting on it. That’s power. That’s change.
I hope you will join me and Jumpstart to celebrate the importance of literacy this Thursday. Pledge to read Otis with a child in your life at jstart.org/TFA.