Elmo, Insurers Promote Literacy in Downtown Los Angeles

By | October 15, 2014

More than 100 tykes, some crawling their way out of strollers, were noticeably tickled as they scrambled about the Central Library in downtown Los Angeles, making their way to Sesame Street-themed coloring books or lining up to see a big, red furry Elmo character on Wednesday.

“Every Day is Reading and Writing Day,” a partnership with the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation and Sesame Street Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind Sesame Street, was held at the library to motivate area parents and their children to talk, read and write together.

The event featured the popular Elmo character. It’s a successful sequel to last year’s literacy event featuring the Cookie Monster.

The literacy 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.

Elmo made an appearance in downtown Los Angeles to help IICF and Sesame Street promote literacy. Photo by Danielle Klebanow
Elmo made an appearance in downtown Los Angeles to help IICF and Sesame Street promote literacy.
Photo by Danielle Klebanow

IICF CEO Bill Ross talked about the importance of learning.

“The key point is just for children to learn to read and for parents to talk to their children,” Ross said.

He said insurance is an idea industry to be involved in efforts to promote greater literacy nationwide because of its broad reach.

“Insurance has a great network that covers the U.S.,” Ross said.

Volunteers from a variety of insurance companies were on hand to help families get seated at tables to color, to go and meet Elmo or to find their way through the library for story time.

Bryant Baloloy, a public directors and officers underwriter for carrier CNA, said he was taking part in the event because he believes literacy in childhood leads to a better adults.

“Statistics show that early literacy produces efficient adults who can contribute to not only society as a whole but the insurance industry as well,” Baloly said.

Karen Axel, the human resources director for Chubb Group of Insurance Cos.’ Southern California operations, agreed.

“I think it supports the community,” she said of literacy.

Jim Darling, senior vice president and California branch manager for Chubb, was managing a long line of excited children and parents circling a room in the library where Elmo waited to greet people and have pictures taken.

Darling’s motivation for participating in the event, and the particular task he was performing when he was asked to offer a few thoughts on his involvement, was immediately clear.

“I love Elmo,” Darling said.

Darling, who noted he has three children, said community outreach is important for companies in all industries.

“I think it’s a very good way to reach out to children,” he said. “This is a way to give back to the community.”

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