It’s hard to conceive of taking a step farther away from the topic of insurance than having a big, hairy blue monster drive home your point.
But that’s just what the Cookie Monster did when he walked into the Magnolia Place Family Center in Los Angeles on Wednesday, drawing exuberance from most, but inspiring terror in those who didn’t know what to make of him.
The Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation and Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind Sesame Street, were on hand with the Cookie Monster to announce the launch of Every Day is a Reading and Writing Day.
With the goal of encouraging early childhood reading, IICF and Sesame Workshop will be promoting Every Day is a Reading and Writing Day at events nationwide and will be reaching out to families and volunteers through local and national programming.
The event in Los Angeles on Wednesday was at the nonprofit Children’s Bureau’s Magnolia Place Family Center, located in the heart of a community in need of a little help. The center opened its doors in 2008 in the 90007 ZIP code, where more than 66 percent of residents have an income below the poverty level, according to the most recent Census data.
The event began as the center opened to a flood of dozens of children and their parents, who quickly rushed into an activity center and took up residence in front of coloring books, as well as several computers displaying screens with online Sesame Street characters encouraging kids to spell, or plant gardens, or color.
The initiative from IICF and Sesame Street is in response to the wide gap in literacy rates that prevails between children of high and low-income families, according to the groups.
According to IICF, a nonprofit funded by the insurance industry and focused on community development across the country, children from low-income families have a decided disadvantage when it comes to learning to read. Prior to starting school children from high-income families benefit from 400 hours more literacy-related activities than children from low-income families, and by age 4, a high-income child is exposed to 35 million more words than a low-income child, research shows.
As part of the initiative the groups on Wednesday unveiled a new bilingual, digital resource that includes tips, games, and activities to engage children and improve their reading and writing capabilities. The free resource is available at SesameStreet.org/literacy.
Above a din of noisy children playing on computers and coloring at the event, IICF CEO Bill Ross talked about the importance of learning.
“The path for success in America has always been associated with learning,” Ross said.
Ross talked about the battle against illiteracy and the partnership, then asked and answered the one big question that loomed large before it could be posed by any skeptics in the room: What’s the tie-in between the insurance industry and the Cookie Monster?
“Why is the insurance industry here?” Ross stated. “Because we believe in our children.”
Alex Morales, president and CEO of Children’s Bureau, talked about the 100-year history of the organization and then thanked the industry for its help.
“I want to be able to say thank you to this industry – that is the insurance industry,” he said.
Both men happily battled to be heard above the noise for those who came with the purpose of hearing what they had to say. And a few parents and maybe a child or two raised their heads to look at the speakers, but the keynote address was delivered in silence by a large, blue hairy character walking around the room.