Houston Students 'Read for the Record' to Help Close the Literacy Gap

More than 30,000 children from the largest school district in Texas took part in a major effort to set the record for the number of people reading the same book on the same day across Houston.

The day-long event was designed to bring attention to the importance of reading early in a child's life in conjunction with Jumpstart's Read for the Record Campaign. The Houston Independent School District (HISD) was slated to participate in Read for the Record, the world's largest shared reading experience, on Oct.2 but had to postpone its participation as a result of Hurricane Ike.

HISD and Pearson officials planned the record-breaking event to bring awareness to the literacy gap and to demonstrate the importance of reading to young children.

"Our goal was to help children and their families get excited about reading. Every child's academic success begins with reading," said Dr. Abelardo Saavedra, HISD Superintendent. "Pearson's generous book donation is helping us to drive home the message about the importance of reading, and we appreciate their support of this effort."

Superintendent Saavedra and Paul McFall, senior vice president of curriculum for Pearson, kicked off the day by reading the popular children's book Corduroy, the Read for the Record Campaign's official book, to pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten students. The students were enthralled by the children's classic and had many questions and comments for the guest readers.

At other HISD schools across Houston, parents, public officials, business executives from companies such as Pearson, and even Santa Claus read Corduroy to children in their classrooms.

The Pearson Foundation provided 1,800 copies of Corduroy in English and Spanish and related online instructional resources such as lesson plans and classroom activities to help HISD reinforce early literacy skills.

The publication of Corduroy was underwritten by the Pearson Foundation, ensuring that 100% of the proceeds directly benefit Jumpstart's work with at-risk children. Additionally, each book purchased online was matched with a donation from the Pearson Foundation to support Jumpstart's early education programs for children in low-income communities across the nation.

"Research shows that poor reading skills early in a child's life contribute significantly to the widening of the achievement gap. Children are more likely to struggle in school if they rarely or ever are read to at home," said Pearson Foundation President Mark Nieker. "Pearson was privileged to work with HISD on this important effort to raise awareness of the literacy gap--a national problem that can be overcome."

Website: Jumpstart's Read for the Record, visit www.pearsonfoundation.org.