We are so grateful for our entire Read for the Record community as we work together to raise awareness around the critical importance of early literacy and access to inclusive literature. One of our longtime participants and 2023 Read for the Record Impact Partners, Broward Reads in Broward County, Florida, is an incredible example of the passion that our community members feel for our mission.
For those unfamiliar, Broward County is in South Florida, located in the Fort Lauderdale metropolitan area. It is Florida’s second-most populous county and the 17th-most populous county in the United States. Broward Reads is a part of the National Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and was created by the Children’s Services Council of Broward County in collaboration with Broward County Public Schools and the Early Learning Coalition of Broward County. The initiative is also deeply supported by the Broward County Library system and the Broward County Commission. From child development services for families and educators to county-wide reading celebrations like Read for the Record, Broward County has made early literacy a top priority for every child in their county.
We were fortunate enough to interview Cindy Arenberg Seltzer, President and CEO of the Children Services Council of Broward County, to learn more about Broward’s participation in Jumpstart’s Read for the Record over the past nine years.
How many children/adults participate in Jumpstart’s Read for the Record from Broward County each year?
Between the Children’s Services Council (CSC), Broward County Public School System, and the Early Learning Coalition of Broward County, we distribute more than 40,000 books and we have over 1,000 volunteers including City officials and other dignitaries participate.
Why do you participate in Jumpstart’s Read for the Record?
The Children’s Services Council has been using Read for the Record as the annual kick-off to our ongoing Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. It is a great way to generate attention to the importance of reading and to engage volunteers who we work with to convert from a one-day volunteer to a year-long volunteer. We also love providing children and families with tangible proof that their community cares about them and encouraging their love of reading. We do that by providing each child with their own copy of the book stamped with the logo of the Broward Reads: Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. Personally, I just love it! I get as much joy reading the book with the children as they do.
Do you have any tips for other teachers, schools, and districts planning Read for the Record events?
Remember to keep the children at the center of your planning and engage your community. Broward Schools participated in Read for the Record for a few years before CSC became involved, but it was on a much smaller scale. When we became involved, we offered a challenge grant to other funders to get involved – not because CSC couldn’t provide the necessary funding but because we thought it was important to show our children the broad community support there was for their success. That propelled it into this broad community effort. Our aim in Broward County is to use Read for the Record as a galvanizing force to promote a love of reading and to engage the community at large in supporting that love. We also use the occasion to show our young readers that reading is fun and that they are special and their voices matter. We encourage our volunteer readers to make the experience as engaging as possible; listen to the kids, and encourage them to share their thoughts.
What is your favorite memory of participating in Jumpstart’s Read for the Record?
With every year comes a new favorite memory! It never ceases to amaze me how the creativity of our students and teachers shines through in their preparation for Read for the Record. I always enjoy seeing the arts and crafts they make that support the chosen book. My most cherished memories, though, come from my interactions with the children as I read the story. Seeing how animated they get and being able to share the moment with them lights me up and reminds me why we do this work.