This summer, attorneys in the firm's Washington DC office lent their voices to an important initiative aimed at helping preschool children in low-income neighborhoods develop the language and literacy skills they need to be prepared for kindergarten.
As part of an initiative organized by Jumpstart, a national early education organization, 17 male attorneys in the DC office volunteered to be recorded as they read children's books. The goal of this campaign—called "50 Reading Men"—is to share the recordings with underprivileged young children who lack a significant male presence in their lives.
"There is evidence that many low-income preschool-aged children have never had a story read to them by a male figure, in part due to the large number of single-mother households and lack of men in early education," says Senior Associate Petal Walker, a member of Jumpstart's local advisory board.
In an effort to alleviate this trend, Jumpstart sought men in the DC area willing to be recorded while reading children's books such as I Heard Said the Bird, Inch by Inch and Gilberto and the Wind. Walker reached out to attorneys in the DC office to take part in the initiative, and received an enthusiastic response.
"Many of the attorneys expressed that they considered it a privilege," says Walker. "Several described how they read to their own kids, and therefore know how important it is to read to young children."
Throughout the upcoming school year, children in Jumpstart classrooms in the DC area will have access to the recordings on computers and iPads.
"Many people don't realize that a child's ultimate success largely depends on their reading readiness upon entering kindergarten," adds Walker. "Initiatives like this are important because they engage children at a time when they are building foundational knowledge that they will rely upon throughout their educational journey."
Members of the firm who submitted recordings include Partners Paul Architzel, Dan Berkovitz, Reginald Brown, Russ Bruemmer, Doug Davison, Eric Mahr and Andre Owens; Counsel Chris Herrling, Neil Potts and Brian Smith; Senior Associate Zachary King; Associate Matthew Celestin; Senior Staff Attorney Scott Layman; Staff Attorneys Sheldon Noel and Todd Willis; Diversity Director Kenneth Imo; and former Senior Associate Robert Haferd.
(Former WilmerHale Partner Eric Mahr reads and records a story.)