Brooklyn, a 3-year-old Costa Mesa girl, laughed as Katrina Foley and Costa Mesa firefighter Aaron Davis read to her at Barnes & Noble at Metro Pointe on Thursday.
Foley, a Newport-Mesa school board trustee, and Davis read to preschool-aged children as part of THINK Together and the Children and Families Commission of Orange County's effort to encourage youth literacy. The event is part of Jumpstart's Read for the Record annual event, which promotes the need for early education in America.
"When kids enter kindergarten, they should be prepared," said Tony Dodero, communications director for THINK Together. "The kids that do go to preschool and are read to on a regular basis are much more prepared than other kids ... ."
As part of the effort, they hope to set a world record for the largest shared reading experience of "Ladybug Girl and the Bug Squad" by David Soman and Jacky Davis.
Last year's event set a record in Orange County by reading "Llama Llama Red Pajama" to more than 40,000 children in one day and more than 2 million children worldwide.
"Reading to young children at a young age increases literacy," Dodero said. "It increases their chances to graduate from high school and go to college. Our goal is to improve kids' lives."
Dodero referred to an achievement gap between kids from lower-income families and kids from higher-income families. He said that 37% of kids in California drop out of high school and of that percentage, 48% are Latinos and 45% are African Americans.
"What we do is try to change that," he said. "We don't want them to drop out of high school. We want to keep them in school and keep them on this path to higher education."
Davis said supporting children, especially on an educational level, is important to the firefighters and to the community.
"It's great to see community members of all sizes and aspects get together to support the kids," he said.
The Barnes & Noble Bookfair at Metro Pointe at South Coast, 901 South Coast Drive, will continue to support THINK Together until Oct. 12. With the ID No. 1084770, a percentage of the net sale will be contributed to THINK Together.