The Nationals' community service initiatives take no off-season, as evidenced by Thursday's gathering of nearly 300 children at Nationals Park to participate in Jump Start's Read for the Record program.
USO volunteers, students and families joined the Washington Nationals, the Pearson Foundation and United Through Reading for a special bilingual reading of Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar on Thursday morning.
Nationals president Stan Kasten welcomed the children to Nationals Park and encouraged them to enjoy the event and come back again soon to check out a game. Scattered throughout the crowd, USO volunteers helped the children follow along with hard copies of the book, which was read by ABC 7 Meteorologist Brian van de Graaff and Nationals Vice President of Human Resources, Bettina Deynes.
After the reading, the children split into various groups for a quick baseball clinic with the volunteers. Students learned how to pitch, hit and field before stopping at an additional reading station.
More than 20,000 books will be donated to USO schools like these to ensure that children whose families are currently serving our country can take part in this year's Read for the Record program. The United Through Reading organization allows service men and women overseas to record themselves reading a book on a DVD to send back to their children.
Thursday's special event highlights the importance of early literacy to raise awareness about the importance of reading with young children to help ensure they succeed in school and in life.