Julianne Moore, Samuel L. Jackson, John C. Reilly, Brooke Shields, Billy Crudup, Ana Gasteyer and LaTanya Richardson all took center stage in NYC this past Monday evening. It wasn’t for a glitzy movie premiere or for opening night of the hottest new Broadway play. These Hollywood greats came together to lend their individual time and talents to read children’s books as part of an extraordinary fundraiser – Starry Night Stories – to benefit Children of Bellevue’s Reach Out and Read program.

Each of the actors projected his or her own personal style and charisma as they read children’s books aloud to an audience of captivated and delighted adults. They each brought new life and personality to the stories and characters from several wonderful children’s books that included:

Sylvester and the Magic PebbleDuck For President – read by Billy Crudup

Freckleface Strawberry Best Friends Forever – read by Julianne Moore and Samuel L. Jackson

Olivia… and the Missing Toy – read by Ana Gasteyer

Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late! – read by LaTanya Richardson with pigeon sound effects by Samuel L. Jackson

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble – read by John C. Reilly and Brooke Shields

How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? – read by the cast

Starry Night Story ProgramBravo to all of these esteemed actors for reminding us how entertaining children’s books and reading can be. Their fantastic and rare Starry Night Stories performances benefit the Reach Out and Read program at New York City’s Bellevue Hospital, America’s oldest public hospital founded in 1736. The program, which makes books and parent counseling a routine part of pediatric care, is simple in concept but has far reaching benefits. Children learn to love books and parents learn to love reading to their children, all while visiting the doctor.

The Children of Bellevue program is part of the national Reach Out and Read (ROR) initiative, which involves pediatricians, parent educators and volunteer readers working together to help parents understand the importance of reading aloud and to give books to children at pediatric checkups from 6 months through 5 years of age, with a special focus on children growing up in poverty. Research shows that being read to early and often creates a strong foundation for later learning and ultimate success in school. Being read to also promotes a love of books and reading in young children. The ROR model facilitates this important developmental activity in several ways.

Reach Out and ReadThere are currently Reach Out and Read Programs located in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, and U.S. military bases overseas, and they continue to grow. Reach Out and Read Programs are housed at hospitals, health centers, clinics, and private pediatric practices. You can find a local Reach Out And Read program in your area here.

So, next time you go to grab a video game or pop in a movie, consider reading to or with a child instead. You might be surprised how much you both enjoy it.

A very special thanks to Woman You Should Know, Debbie Freundlich, for bringing Reach Out and Read to our attention, so we could share it with all of you. Debbie has been a volunteer reader with Children of Bellevue’s Reach Out and Read for 10 years.