Students in Melissa Irvin’s preschool class at Rue Elementary got a special treat Thursday.

They got to hear the story “Thank You, Omu” read by Hillary Saalfeld, director of education for the Omaha Children’s Museum.

It was part of Jumpstart’s annual Read for the Record event observed at thousands of schools around the world. At each location, participants read the same book to emphasize the importance of early literacy.

Locally, the Omaha Children’s Museum participated for its fifth year, sending volunteers to 110 classrooms in 19 area schools and reaching an estimated 1,776 students in preschool through second grade, including some at Edison, Roosevelt, Kreft, Lewis and Clark, College View and Franklin Elementary Schools in Council Bluffs, Saalfeld said. Volunteers also read to children at the museum.

“That’s a record for us,” she said. “Last year, we had 305 listeners at seven different schools.”

Each participating community turns its numbers in to Jumpstart, which tracks the total number of listeners worldwide, Saalfeld said. That number will be in the millions.

“It grows a little bit every year,” she said.

The book, written and illustrated by Oge Mora, was published in October 2018 by Little Brown Young Readers and was named a 2019 Caldecott Honor Book. Mora was recognized with the Coretta Scott King-John Steptoe New Talent Illustrator Award.

“Thank You, Omu” tells the story of a woman who makes a “thick, red stew” that smells so good each person who passes by her house stops in to ask for some. She generously shares a bowl of stew with each of them, emptying the pot before she has a chance to eat any herself. But she discovers that the people she helped also know how to share.

Saalfeld left a copy of the book for each preschool class at Rue. Elsewhere, volunteers left a copy of the book in each classroom where they read, thanks to funding from Omaha’s Downtown Rotary Club.

The Children’s Museum has helped with other events at the school, Principal Casey Moran said.

“They come and do different activities with classes that are age-appropriate” and hold family nights at the museum, he said. “They have summer learning sessions, too, so they’ve been a really good partner.”

The museum holds events each month that feature community leaders as readers, Saalfeld said.

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