COLUMBIA — With the book "Corduroy" lining the bookshelves two by two, Tag-a-long the Clown sat in an oversized brown chair at MU's University Bookstore, ready to help break a world record.
The record didn't involve growing the longest fingernails or eating the most hamburgers. Instead, Tag-a-long the Clown was hoping to get adults to read the same book to the most children on a single day.
The record was part of a one-day national event called Read for the Record, created by Jumpstart, a nonprofit organization that helps children learn vital skills. Organizers of the program, which partners with universities across the country, hope the annual event will raise awareness about the early education gap that exists between income levels, according to the Jumpstart Web site.
Read for the Record set a goal of getting 400,000 involved this year in order to beat the 2007 record, which was close to 300,000. In 2006, the record was 144,000.
Martina Hoyt, Jumpstart's associate site manager, said Jumpstart won't know if a new world record was set until it hears from the national organization, which should take about a week.
The event took place Thursday, when children from the Stephens College Children's School and the MU Child Development Lab came to the bookstore to take part. Hoyt, also known as Tag-a-long the Clown, estimated that approximately 300 Columbia children from 12 schools participated, including the kids from the Stephens and MU labs.
Jumpstart, which is entering its sixth year in affiliation with MU, invited several "local heroes" to read to the children. This year marked the third year for its Read for the Record event. In the past, "The Story of Ferdinand" and "The Little Engine That Could" were read.
Boone County Firefighter Martina Pounds has participated in the event for the past two years.
"It's good for them to see different professions," Pounds said. "The children see it's important to read when you get older."
Chris Woodson, a biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, also returned for a second year. He said Read for the Record provides an opportunity for children to interact with people in the civil services.
"There's not as much interaction as there used to be, and like Martina said, you shouldn't be afraid of firefighters (and others in the civil service)," Woodson said. "It's a good chance to reach out and give back to the kids."
In addition to "Corduroy," adults also read "Where the Wild Things Are." Children later participated in a craft in which they had to sew a button on a bookmark, similar to what happened to Corduroy in the book, when he had a missing button sewn back on by a girl.