By JOHN Y. COLE
More than 160 youngsters, many of them from the Edward C. Mazique Parent and Child Center in northwest Washington, D.C., came to the Library of Congress in August to read a newly illustrated edition of the children's classic "The Little Engine That Could." Sponsored by the Center for the Book, the lively event was part of Jumpstart's "Read for the Record" early literacy campaign, for which First Lady Laura Bush serves as honorary chairperson. This literacy initiative aims to set the record for the world's largest shared reading experience.
On the same day, tens of thousands of adults and young children in homes, schools and libraries throughout the nation and in other public institutions also read "The Little Engine That Could"—to each other, in groups or to themselves. The goal was three-fold: to show support for early learning, to engage in an activity that helps young children thrive and to set the world record for reading this one book.
"The Little Engine That Could" by Watty Piper is one of the most popular and beloved children's books of all time. Over the years it has sold millions of copies and its familiar refrain of "I think I can" has become a permanent part of the American vernacular. The new edition published for "Read for the Record" was illustrated by Loren Long, who has illustrated many celebrated picture books for children.
A nonprofit organization founded in 1993, Jumpstart is dedicated to promoting quality early-childhood programs. Its partners in "Read for the Record" are Penguin Books for Young Readers, which published the new volume; Pearson Learning Group, which funded its publication; and Starbucks Coffee, which made the book available in its stores during August. All proceeds from sale of the book, which sold for $9.95, were donated to Jumpstart. American Eagle Outfitters provides T-shirts for "Read for the Record" and other Jumpstart national events. For further information visit the project's Web site at www.readfortherecord.com.
The Library hosted the event as part of its new Lifelong Literacy initiative. Guest readers included Henry L. Johnson, assistant secretary in the Department of Education's Office of Elementary and Secondary Education; Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), pictured reading to children, above; and Tony Award-winning actor Ben Vereen.
The event also featured activity centers where the children could participate in crafts, educational activities and a special bookmaking project—and, of course, read.
John Y. Cole is director of the Center for the Book.