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NJ’s Top Education Official Reads The Little Engine That Could Classic To Preschoolers, Stresses Importance of Adults Reading to Young Children


August 24, 2006

New Brunswick, NJ — New Jersey's top education official brought The Little Engine That Could to life for some 30 New Brunswick preschoolers when she read the classic tale as part of a national campaign stressing the importance of reading to young children.

New Jersey's Commissioner of Education and early literacy advocate Lucille E. Davy read the story with its powerful "I think I can" message to the 4-year-olds at an event sponsored by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) and Starbucks in partnership with Jumpstart's Read for the Record national campaign. The national campaign's goal is to set the world record for the number of children reading the same book in a single day with an adult.

"We know that a successful education begins with a strong preschool education and lots of exposure to books," said Commissioner Davy. "That's why we continue to stress the importance of early literacy. We believe that all of our children can be successful when they are given the opportunity to learn and enjoy reading."

The 4-year-old children walked three blocks to the reading from the Middlesex Regional Educational Services Commission (MRESC) Early Childhood Center in downtown New Brunswick — and then walked back clutching their very own copies of the book. MRESC is an Abbott District preschool. New Jersey ranks as one of the top states in the nation for access and quality, based on NIEER's annual ranking of state preschool programs.

"Research overwhelmingly shows us the importance of quality early learning experiences in preparing children to succeed in school," said Steve Barnett, NIEER's director. "In fact, early literacy learning experiences lay the foundation for later academic achievement – achievement that in turn translates into reduced grade retention, higher graduation rates and increased earnings."

NIEER plans to put its research into action when it builds a national model preschool in New Brunswick on the grounds of Rutgers University. The state of the art preschool will serve as home for a model prekindergarten program that will provide a high-quality preschool education for 90 New Brunswick children at the corner of College Avenue and Huntington Street. Architectural drawings are underway.

"Any high-quality program will integrate strong literacy components into a curriculum focusing on developmentally appropriate social, emotional and cognitive learning experiences," said Barnett. "NIEER is pleased to partner with Jumpstart and Starbucks as a way of focusing attention on the benefits of adults reading to children."

The Read for the Record national campaign was created by Jumpstart and corporate sponsors Starbucks, Pearson, Penguin (USA), American Eagle Outfitters and the Corporation for National and Community Service. The national effort invited adults across America to read with young children through the creation of nationwide events on August 24.

More about Read for the Record can be found at www.readfortherecord.com.

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The National Institute for Early Education Research (www.nieer.org), a unit of the Graduate School of Education, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey, supports early childhood education policy by providing objective, nonpartisan information based on research. NIEER is supported through grants from The Pew Charitable Trusts and others.