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Governor reads to kindergartners as part of literacy campaign

Sandoval reads to Whitney students

Paul Takahashi

Gov. Brian Sandoval reads to schoolchildren as Principal Sherrie Gahn looks on at Whitney Elementary School on Thursday, Oct. 6, 2011, as part of the 6th annual Read for the Record event organized nationally by Jumpstart and the Pearson Foundation. The students took part in a nationwide literacy effort to set a world record for the most people reading the same book on the same day.

Sandoval Reads to Whitney Students

Gov. Brian Sandoval reads to schoolchildren as Principal Sherrie Gahn looks on at Whitney Elementary School on Thursday, Oct. 6, 2011, as part of the sixth annual Read for the Record, a nationwide literacy effort. Launch slideshow »

Map of Whitney

Whitney

5005 Keenan Ave., Las Vegas

Gov. Brian Sandoval — sporting a crisp black suit and red tie — read a story about a llama who wore red pajamas to about 100 kindergartners on Thursday.

Sandoval visited Whitney Elementary School as part of the sixth annual Read for the Record event, which brings community leaders and celebrities into schools to promote literacy.

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman visited Staton Elementary School earlier on Thursday.

Whitney joined hundreds of other elementary schools across the country in an attempt to set a world record for the most people reading the same book on the same day. This year, more than 2 million children read “Llama Llama Red Pajama.”

The 30-page, illustrated children’s book by Anna Dewdney is about a baby llama who cries out for his mama llama after she tucks him into bed. The mama llama reassures the baby llama, saying, “Llama llama, don’t you know, mama llama loves you so.”

Jumpstart, a national early childhood education organization, and the Pearson Foundation, the nonprofit arm of the textbook publisher, sponsored the event, the latter donating more than 200,000 copies of the book to participating students.

Since the national campaign’s inception in 2006, more than 5 million people have participated. During the same time, the Pearson Foundation has donated more than 900,000 books.

In an animated voice, Sandoval read the popular children’s book to three kindergarten classes.

The children sat enraptured by the story, many of them craning their necks to see the colorful illustrations. After Sandoval finished reading, the children waved their hands in a "silent cheer."

"I'm going to give you a silent 'you're welcome,'" Sandoval said, with a big smile.

Since his 2010 gubernatorial campaign, Sandoval has visited about 150 schools, reading to children about once a month, according to a senior adviser. Sandoval said he tried out the book on his 7-year-old daughter before Thursday’s event.

“She really enjoyed it as well,” he said. “She reads to me and I read to her. We want to set a strong example statewide of how important it is for parents to read to their kids.”

Whitney Principal Sherrie Gahn said she was excited to have the governor read to her students. Sandoval visited Whitney during his campaign and introduced Gahn to First Lady Kathleen Sandoval, who helped her start a nonprofit after-school program — Village of Hope — at the eastern valley school.

Most of the students at Whitney receive free or reduced-price lunches and many are homeless, Gahn said. For struggling parents, reading to their children often takes a back seat to putting food on the table, she said.

“Our kids don’t get a lot of lap time at home,” she said. “For us, having people in the community — the governor — coming to spend time and read to a child is crucial. It’s so important for our kids to see how important (literacy) is and see a grown-up read to them.”

For a state that is still reeling from one of the worst recessions in the country’s history, education is part of his plan to put Nevadans back to work, Sandoval said. Early literary efforts are a big component of the solution, he said.

“Literacy is a future gauge of success,” he said. “We have our struggles in the state of Nevada, but it’s very simple to take five, 10, 15 minutes a night to read to your kids. It’s a great time to bond with your kids.”

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