October 6 was a special day for preschool children who were invited to the Capitol Visitor Center in Washington D.C. to participate in the 6th annual Jumpstart Read.
“Today, members of Congress are joining with Washington, DC preschool children, as well as millions of adults and children across the country as part of Jumpstart’s Read for the Record ®, presented in partnership with Pearson Foundation. On this one day, individuals will read Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney to set a new world reading record and spread the word that all children should receive the quality early education they deserve,” said Maria Barry in a press release.
Katey Comerford, a social worker by trade who serves as Executive Director of Jumpstart Washington D.C., has been working with the organization for 7 years. She wore multiple hats at the event, doing everything from reading to the children to being the emcee for segments of the event.
“Our National Government Relations staff really wanted to have an event. They opened it up to volunteers and then also to local and federal leaders in education who really have their fingers on the pulse on what’s good for young people to raise the awareness for our issue,” said Comerford.
At the heart of the issue is the fact that children from low-income communities are not receiving the same education and resources to succeed as children from more affluent communities. Jumpstart hopes to change that disparity for the good.
“We want to close the achievement gap,” said Comerford. “And we know it can happen if we get it started early enough.”
According to Comerford the activities of the event are, “an example of what Jumpstart does every single day.” Comerford is referring to Jumpstart’s Corps members that consist of diligent college students and community volunteers who are trained by Jumpstart. During the course of an entire school year, these members spend up to 15 hours in preschool classrooms, actively engaging with the children in learning activities to ensure that the preschoolers will be prepared for Kindergarten.
Steven Hicks is a former Kindergarten teacher who currently works for the U.S. Department of Education as Special Assistant on Early Learning. He supports the “increased focus on early learning.”
“We know that the early years are the most important years in a child’s life and want to promote not only literacy but other skills such as cognitive skills and social-emotional skills,” said Hicks.
U.S. Department of Education Senior Advisor on Early Learning Jacqueline Jones was a special guest, invited to read Llama Llama Red Pajama.
According to Hicks, when Jones read the book to the preschoolers, they children were “excited and engaged in literacy, asking great questions, looking at how the story connects with their own lives and building their vocabulary.”
Sharon Goodine, one of the invited guests at this event, works as a co-teacher for Sunshine Early Learning Center, Inc. She is very familiar with the book Llama Llama Red Pajama because it has become a part of her lesson plan.
“We’re working on the project about the book which we’ve been reading with the children,” said Goodine. “We read with the book to the kids every morning and we act out some of the story so the kids get more of a tangible picture of it. We even made hats out of paper plates and construction paper to make the ears like a llama.”
Carey Wright, Chief Academic Officer for District of Columbia Public schools (DCPS) has high hopes for the success of Jumpstart and believes the benefits for the children involved with the program will be far-reaching.
“If we can inherit a whole group of little ones that have been exposed to a wide variety of literature at a young age, that’s going to give them a jumpstart when they start preschool,” said Wright. “The more we can expose them to a wide variety of literature and vocabulary, the better off they’re going to be.”
For more information about Jumpstart, visit www.jstart.org.