It’s official: October 4, 2012 is Jumpstart’s Read for the Record Day, per U.S. Senate Resolution 584, adopted on September 21. Jumpstart, a national organization promoting early childhood education, launched this annual literacy initiative in 2006, in partnership with Penguin and the Pearson Foundation. To date, the campaign has engaged more than seven million young reader participants, raised more than $7 million for early education programs, and has distributed more than a million books to children in low-income neighborhoods. Backed by a robust promotional campaign, this year’s Read for the Record effort extends beyond the usual one-day commemoration, and will entail a week-long celebration of reading that culminates on October 4, when millions of children will read the same book, Ladybug Girl and the Bug Squad by David Soman and Jacky Davis (Dial, 2011).
RFTR is the premiere national initiative of Jumpstart, which since 1993 has trained nearly 25,000 college students and community volunteers to transform the lives of more than 42,000 preschool children across the United States. The organization has a critical mission, says Jen Schwabinger, Penguin v-p and director of special markets. “The statistics are really depressing,” she says. “One in three children enters school without the skills needed to succeed. This campaign brings people together to encourage children to read. In 2011, 2.2 million children participated and this year we hope to surpass that number.”
The 2012 campaign got a splashy launch on Today’s September 24th broadcast, a segment of which featured Penguin director of marketing Jed Bennett and singer-songwriter and actress Ashanti, who is the 2012 RFTR Celebrity Ambassador. During the segment, which was filmed in the children’s room of the New York Public Library’s main 42nd Street branch, Ashanti read Ladybug Girl and the Bug Squad to children.
Each year Penguin chooses a title published by one of the company’s imprints to feature in the RFTR campaign. Prior selections have included The Little Engine That Could, Corduroy, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Ladybug Girl was a natural choice for the campaign, Schwabinger says, since “it appeals to both boys and girls – the dog on the cover is a big draw – and is easily read aloud. And the Ladybug Girl license is huge and kids will recognize it.” That’s borne out by the numbers: the in-print total for the series’ five picture books and four board book titles now exceeds 2.3 million copies.
This year’s RFTR promotional outreach is broader than any annual campaign to date. The Pearson Foundation “ReadMobile” will visit more than 40 cities nationwide to distribute an estimated 150,000 custom-printed paperback copies (in both English and Spanish editions) of Ladybug Girl and the Bug Squad at schools and libraries. And Penguin reports that more than 100 mayors have pledged to promote RFTR in their communities.
Online initiatives include Penguin’s revamped Read for the Record Web site, which includes downloadable activities, a parent brochure, and PDF banner ads for stores, bloggers, and librarians to use on their own sites. And on the Web site for Pearson Foundation’s literacy-based initiative, kids are invited to join “The Bug Squad,” and agree to read Ladybug Girl and the Bug Squad on October 4.
Bookseller outreach includes the distribution of activity kids and more than 600 floor displays that contain a mix of Ladybug Girl titles and feature a Read for the Record riser. In addition, some 80,000 copies of Ladybug Girl and the Bug Squad will be stickered to promote the campaign. For the school and library community, ALA commissioned and distributed several thousand copies of a poster celebrating RFTR, and did a RFTR e-blast to 57,000 librarians on August 23. According to Penguin, hundreds of school districts nationwide have already signed on to take part in the October 4 celebration, with more joining the campaign daily.
Schwabinger is thrilled that this year’s RFTR promotion is poised to encourage more children than ever to join in – and develop a love of reading. “This initiative is aimed at children who may not have a single book in their homes,” she says. “This year, we hope to break a record for the number of children participating as we work toward the day when every child enters preschool prepared to succeed.”