Five years ago, I met a vibrant young author, Anna Dewdney, whose book Llama Llama Red Pajama captured the imagination of countless children, including my own son. Anna’s whimsical story was the centerpiece of Jumpstart’s Read for the Record campaign, and I was delighted to serve as the campaign’s Celebrity Ambassador to voice my support for the importance of reading and talking with children. As part of the 24-hour celebration, I had the pleasure of appearing with Anna at several events, including a lighting of the Empire State Building. Her spirit touched me, and I was deeply saddened to hear about Anna’s passing last month after a battle with cancer. I treasure the time we spent together, raising awareness about the importance of early literacy and helping children discover their lifelong love of reading. I have since become a national board member for Jumpstart and I feel lucky to be able to continue my support of the organization’s work to give all young children the opportunity to succeed, a cause that Anna and I shared.
Leveling the playing field for children from low-income communities is what Jumpstart’s Read for the Record is all about. Each year, Jumpstart selects a campaign book to help children have fun, build their vocabulary, and make connections between words and meaning. A special edition of the book is published, providing reading tips and suggested activities to help parents and care givers support their child’s learning.
I am still shocked to know that there is a dramatic word gap – 30 million words – for children from low-income households by the time they are three years old. Studies have shown that the word gap persists throughout a child’s education and can be indicative of his ability to achieve future successes, both inside and outside of the classroom. Ensuring that all children have the skills they need to succeed, no matter what zip code they’re born into, drives Jumpstart every day. And children are the true winners because they receive the ‘jumpstart’ they need to bridge the word gap, discover the joy of learning, and pursue their dreams.
Today, I’m honoring Anna’s legacy by continuing to serve as an advocate for Jumpstart and its annual Read for the Record campaign. Our collective efforts to bring attention to the importance of children’s literacy and address educational inequities by mobilizing millions to take part in the world’s largest shared reading experience has been a life-changing experience for me. It is a privilege to continue this important work in her memory. I hope that you’ll join me today, October 27th, for Jumpstart’s 11th annual Read for the Record. To learn more about how you can be a part of this fun, impactful, and incredibly powerful day, visit readfortherecord.org.