Fort Belvoir Elementary School students read for the record
Christie Black, Miss Virginia reads the book, "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" to third-grade classes Friday at Fort Belvoir Elementary.

Miss Virginia United States, USO team up to help

FORT BELVOIR, Va. -- Fort Belvoir Elementary School students helped with an attempt to make history as they joined children across the country and around the globe in reading the same book on the same day.

This year's Read for the Record Campaign is trying to set a new participation record for a shared-reading experience, according to Jodi Hullinger, spokesperson for Jumpstart, the sponsor of the Oct. 8 event.

In 2008, the campaign set the world record for an event of its type, bringing together 688,781 in homes, at local libraries, parent groups, preschool centers, and major public venues, in reading the official campaign book, "Corduroy."

According to Fairfax County Public Schools' Web site, in 2008, 8,641 students in 85 schools participated to help set that world record.

This year Jumpstart, with co-sponsor and partner, the Pearson Foundation, hopes to achieve more than 1 million readers, Hullinger said. She said this year's campaign will donate hundreds of thousands of books and raise more than $2.5 million to support the organization's yearlong work with preschool children.

Results of this year's effort are not yet finalized. Hullinger said the organization is still collecting information from participants and will not have a final number until later this month. The official deadline is Oct. 31.

On Belvoir, Christie L. Black, Miss Virginia United States, read the special campaign edition of "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" by Eric Carle to all of the third-grade classes at FBES, and the USO Metropolitan Washington donated 771 copies of the book to all of the pre-K, kindergarten, first-, second- and third-grade students.

In the region, USO-Metro donated more than 3, 410 books to military installations in northern Virginia, D.C. and Maryland, according to Dawn Fincham, program and services manager. More than 70 USO centers at military bases across the globe hosted readings for Soldiers and their families.

Teachers at the school said having Black come out to read to the students was great, according to FBES parent liaison Gwen Jefferson.

She said they told her the students were very excited to have a star read to them.

"It was a great opportunity for our school to participate in a national campaign that was fun for our students and also highlights the importance of what we do as educators every day - prepare our students for a bright and successful future," Jefferson said.

EmilyJane McLoughlin, Belvoir's USO coordinator, said the campaign helps put reading in a positive light for the children.

"Miss Virginia was absolutely wonderful. They were beyond thrilled to be able to interact with her and take a book home with them" McLoughlin said. "Every time they look at that book, they will remember the experience," she said.

Up the road, in Washington D.C., 43 children from two Washington went to the U.S. Capitol where 16 members of Congress read Carle's book to them and hundreds gathered for a reading at Nationals Stadium hosted by USO World Headquarters.

Nationally, the event began with early morning readings on NBC's Today Show by the book's author and celebrity readers including Mary Louise Parker, Giada de Laurentiis, Jenna Bush Hager, Tiki Barber and Vince Vaughn. Other celebrities were scheduled to join reading events across the country including, Henry Winkler, Bill Nye the Science Guy and Emily Osment.

Jumpstart is a national early education organization that works to raise public awareness about the educational importance of early childhood programs, early literacy and community involvement for all children regardless of income level, and raise funds for early education in low-income communities.

Each year, one third of America's children arrive at their first day of school developmentally behind their peers and without the skills necessary to succeed, according to Hullinger.

"Today's first graders from low-income communities have one-fourth the vocabulary of their mid-income peers, immediately putting them at an unnecessary disadvantage," said Jumpstart president, James Cleveland.

"By drawing attention to this gap, and, by giving children the tools they need, we can help lower their likelihood to repeat grades, drop out of school, and even engage in criminal activity."

Since 1993, more than 70,000 preschool children across America have benefited from millions of hours of Jumpstart service. Read for the Record has raised more than $3 million and donated more than 500,000 books over the past three years to support the mission of ensuring every child enters school prepared to succeed.

Page last updated Thu October 15th, 2009 at 13:07