Big Bird, Grover, and members of the insurance industry may seem like strange bedfellows, but all have banded together this week to promote early childhood literacy.
“Every Day is a Reading and Writing Day” is the brainchild of the Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind “Sesame Street,” and the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation (IICF). Thanks to research and volunteer efforts, as well as a $750,000 grant from members of the insurance community, low-income children now have access to digital games and activities designed to improve literacy.
The resource launched this week in locations across the US as part of IICF’s annual “Week of Giving,” an event that asks insurance professionals to donate three hours or more of charitable volunteer time. At the flagship event in the New York Public Library, IICF volunteers joined Grover and other popular “Sesame Street” characters in helping children from the St. Aloysius School in Harlem explore the digital materials and make crafts related to the topic of literacy.
“It was an awful lot of fun,” said IICF CEO Bill Ross. “We’ve been able to touch a great, diverse audience.”
For Ross, the opportunity to invest in early childhood education seemed to be a natural fit with the aims of the insurance industry.
“We’ve been talking for three or four years about creating a national grant for literacy,” Ross said. “The insurance industry is uniquely positioned to do that because insurance is quite literally an investment in the future. This is a chance to invest in the future for our children.”
Ross also said the industry’s nationwide status and tendency to be deeply rooted in the community made crafting its early childhood literacy initiative a cinch. IICF members across the country contributed to the research and fundraising necessary to work with Sesame Workshop and launch “Every Day is a Reading and Writing Day.”
Outside of the “Sesame Street” partnership, IICF Executive Director Melissa-Anne Duncan said the group’s “Week of Giving” is going very well.
“We have approximately 3,000 industry volunteers working in the community across the country,” Duncan said. “We have hundreds of volunteer projects occurring, varying from beach cleanups to preparing meals for seniors.”
Since its inception, Duncan said the IICF has contributed more than $20mn in charity grants and 166,000 hours in community service.