WASHINGTON – Brooke Lewis,4,giggled uncontrollably and threw herself against a beanbag chair as Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy,D-R.I.,listed what “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” ate in the popular children's book.
“But he was stilllll hungry!” they said in unison. When Kennedy finished reading,Brooke exclaimed,”Again! Read it again!”
Brooke was one of 43 children from two Washington schools that participated in Jumpstart's Read for the Record,in the U.S. Capitol Thursday. Kennedy was among 16 members of Congress who read to children from the Child Development Center at the University of the District of Columbia and the Rosemount Center as they attempted to break the world record of people reading the same book on the same day,1 million across the country.
In Washington alone,7,000 children and volunteers read Eric Carle's book,said Karen Dahl,vice president of government relations at Jumpstart. The event is held every year to raise awareness of early childhood literacy.
According to the National Adult Literacy Survey,children who have not developed basic literacy practices when they begin school are three to four times more likely to drop out in later years. Studies conducted by the Center on the Developing Child show that of 50 children having trouble learning to read in kindergarten,44 of them will still have trouble in third grade.
“There is a public disparity in early education in this country,” Dahl said. “The achievement gap begins early and persists.”
Bibeka Lemus,a teacher at the Rosemount Center,said it is hard to know if children are reading at home. Some of their parents can't read English.
“We make sure that they read at least two books a day,and we encourage them to read to each other,” Lemus said.
Jumpstart pairs college students with preschool children from underprivileged communities to be mentors and tutors. Students and Jumpstart Corps members from George Mason University,the University of the District of Columbia and Howard University participated in the day's activities.
“I love working with kids,” said Edward Kessie,volunteer coordinator of the Child Development Center at UDC. “I have nieces and nephews who prepared me for this.”
Rep. Tom Latham,R-Iowa,whose adult daughter struggled to read when she was younger,agreed that the key to successful reading is to engage children.
“It is so important that we set examples for young children like this,to have them understand how important it is to read,” said Latham,who read and signed a book for Christa Murphy,4.
The children also sang and danced and made crafts inspired by the book – caterpillars,butterflies and antennae to wear on their heads.
“The antennas were my favorite,” said Kai Brown,4.