Mayor Scott Avedisian and kindergarteners at Robertson Elementary School, along with many other people throughout the nation, are hoping to break a world record this year in spirit of “Read for the Record,” an annual reading celebration that unites children and adults in America by asking them to read the same book on the same day.
The campaign, spearheaded in conjunction by two non-profit organizations, Jumpstart and the Pearson Foundation, highlights the need for high-quality early education.
According to Jumpstart’s website at jstart.org, one in three children begins school without the skills required to be successful. Also, children in low-income neighborhoods start kindergarten 60 percent behind their peers from more affluent communities.
Since its inception in 2006, Read for the Record has raised awareness of America’s achievement gap and encouraged citizens to be role models for children by participating in the campaign.
For the last six years, the movement has united more than 7 million people. While it’s attracted more than 2.2 million participants in 2011 alone, this year’s tally is yet to be known, as readers have until Friday to submit their numbers at jstart.org.
After meeting the children of Maryann Costello’s kindergarten class Thursday morning, Avedisian, who brought a copy of the 2012 official book, “Ladybug Girl and the Bug Squad,” explained to the children the concept of the event.
“They try to get all of us to read the same exact book so we can show how we’re all involved in something together,” he said. “There are students and guest readers reading this book at all different places at all different times.”
He also explained the importance of reading, as well as enjoying it.
“If I didn’t have teachers when I was your age that taught me why it was important to like to read, I wouldn’t be able to do my job,” he said. “The reading skills I got in elementary school help me.”
With enthusiasm and glee, Avedisian then began reading the book by David Soman and Jacky Davis, which teaches children about the importance of apologizing and forgiveness.
Ladybug Girl is a young girl named Lulu, who is dressed as a ladybug. She has a group of friends who also don bug costumes – there’s a bumblebee, dragonfly and butterfly. Together, they set up a secret hideout as the Bug Squad.
But in time, Ladybug Girl becomes increasingly overbearing, bossy and selfish. At one point, she even blows out the candle on her friend’s cupcake.
By the end of the book, Ladybug Girl apologizes by offering her friend a new cupcake and candle. Her friend accepts both the apology and cupcake, and suggests they blow out the candle together, which they do before feasting on the cupcakes.
Avedisian told the children that the key part of the book is to understand that while Ladybug Girl didn’t mean any harm, she took responsibility for hurting her friend and made a sincere apology.
Through her friend’s forgiveness, the book also showcased how vital it is for people to graciously accept an apology. It proves that moving forward is essential not only to enhance relationships with others, but also to build strength and compassion within ourselves.
The kindergarteners at Robertson, who are all learning how to read, said they enjoyed the mayor’s visit and the story.
Betty Lagergren, 5, said, “I like that she apologized.” Many of her classmates agreed, including Rhett Monastesse, 5, who said, “I liked the part when she said she was sorry.”
Students, including Bailee Langlois, Zach Labonte and Malia Lopes, who are all 5 years old, said they liked the parts when the characters in the book went outside to play best.
Others, like Haylee Marandola and Alayna Carr, both 5, love the fact that they are learning how to read.
Caden Mooney, 6, said he follows books that focus on a popular educational cartoon.
“I like picking out Dora books to read,” he said, while Nickolas Napolitano, 5, added, “I like the pictures.”
Encouraging this type of excitement about reading is one of the main points of the movement. Jumpstart, a national early education non-profit organization that is working to ensure that every child in America receives the learning skills they need to succeed, has raised more than $7 million to support its year-round work in preschools in low-income neighborhoods, while the Pearson Foundation, a California-based non-profit organization that aims to make a difference by promoting literacy, learning and teaching, has donated nearly 1 million books to local schools, libraries and community organizations in conjunction with the annual campaign.
Additionally, anyone in the nation can read “Ladybug Girl and the Bug Squad” for free online at wegivebooks.org, as the Pearson Foundation teamed up with Penguin Books to form We Give Books, a digital reading initiative that offers a free library of digital children’s books.
For each digital book read, the Pearson Foundation donates a book to a child in need, helping to reach their campaign goal of giving 1 million books by the end of the school year.
So, will they surpass last year’s goal? Only time will tell.
For now, Avedisian is thankful he had the opportunity for the visit.
“Thank you for letting me come in,” he said. “This was a bright spot of my day.”
Learn more about the Pearson Foundation at pearsonfoundation.org. For more information about We Give Books, visit wegivebooks.org.