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Read for the Record Day

Today's the day to join millions of others reading to or with kids to show our support for children's literacy.  Every year there is one book that leads the challenge and for 2013, it's Otis.  Since Otis came out, this little tractor with the big heart has had a handful of new adventures, but nothing beats the book where we meet him for the first time.  Author and illustrator Loren Long is one of my favorites and besides his own work he's also illustrated other folks' books, including the most beautiful edition of Wally Piper's The Little Engine That Could (a book that he holds dear for reasons you'll see below).  In his guest post below, Loren Long shares his thoughts on reading to children and some of his own best book memories.  Long also let us in on a sneak peek of some of the illustrations going into Otis' first Christmas adventure this fall.

In my mind the picture book is a coveted institution. Something that can't be replaced easily by any medium in life. We can all see the educational, behavioral and creative benefits of reading to children at early ages.

But what I embrace about reading to children the most is a less tangible benefit. Those tender moments reading, the security of those stories that never change, the time spent with them by someone who cares for them and the ultimate love they receive from the repeated experience add up to something  powerful that the child will take with them throughout their entire lives.

I've learned and forgotten many things over and over in my 49 years. But I'll never forget my two favorite books when I was a 4 years old, The Poky Little Puppy and The Little Engine That Could. All these years later I still feel those books inside of me. And I can still feel what it was like to hear my mother's voice reading them to me. It's the kind of stuff that stays with you for life, in the best of ways.

Jumpstart's mission is to work toward the day that every child in America enters kindergarten prepared to succeed. By putting books into kid's hands and raising awareness of the benefits of reading, Jumpstart's Read for the Record protects and champions the coveted institution that is the picture book and all that goes with it. That is why I'm so proud to be a part of this year's Read for the Record. -- Loren Long

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