It was a Tuesday morning and Cisco executives were getting ready for the day’s presentation.
They prepped their text.
They arrived at the meeting space.
They took their seats.
And then they put on the giant bunny ears.
No…this was no ordinary presentation.
Joining in for a Cause
The attendees were preschoolers. And the text? “Bunny Cakes,” by Rosemary Wells, a story about a rabbit, an earthworm birthday cake, and red-hot marshmallow squirters.
The story was part of Jumpstart’s Read for the Record, an annual event that gets the country reading (and promotes literacy) by encouraging record numbers of people to read (or hear) the same book at the same time on the same day.
Cisco execs have been reading for three years – since Bright Horizons staff reached out to them to join in. Since then, the guest readers have been pitching in to ensure all of the San Jose center’s 250 students can play a part in making history.
Read for the Record: Supporting Literacy…and Employees
Past Cisco readers have included Senior Vice President of Operations Randy Pond, Senior Manager, Global Benefits, Debra Pynchon, and Global Business Services Director David Quevedo. This year’s crew included Chief HR Officer Fran Katsoudas and Senior Director Global Benefits Ted Kezios.
While literacy is the event’s driving force, for Cisco, it’s about more than just the book. “It shows what we value,” says Client Liaison Lisa Poon, who also read at the event. “It says that taking care of family is part of what we do.”
Readers are invited to put their own spin on the stories; costumes are encouraged (full disclosure: in addition to the aforementioned bunny ears, some wore chef’s hats). And character voices are welcome. Successful career people that these executives are, they all take their duties very seriously – some even calling Lisa ahead for advice. “They want to know how they should prep,” she says.
Putting On Their Reading Hats
As it turns out, the job isn’t always as easy as it looks. There’s a little bit of a learning curve. The art of reading to children involves the all-important panoramic arm-action that allows little ones equal opportunity to see the illustrations.
Lisa laughs as she recalls one reader who didn’t quite have that down. “He was reading with the book flat on his lap,” she says with a smile, “and we’re all standing off to the side whispering, ‘You have to show the pictures!”
Readers for this year’s event are still being tallied, but organizers hope to top the record. Each child took home a participation certificate, while readers brought home a handmade thank you from the students.
Lisa’s thrilled that Cisco is able to do its part, calling it a feel-good event with a great goal. At the end of the day, she says it’s hard to say exactly who enjoyed it more.
“The people who do this often wonder how they can fit it into their schedules,” she says. “Then they come and have so much fun they want to know if they can come back and do it again next year.”