Mary-Louise Parker It's Story Time!

The Tony Award-winning actress visits day-care centers to get kids excited about reading.

"Books were my best friends when I was little," says the Weeds star, who as the new spokeswoman for the literacy group Jumpstart spends time sharing her favorites with youngsters in low-income communities. "I wasn't a social kid, and books were my escape." She loves reading aloud to her son, Will, 5, and daughter, Ash, 3--and applauds the nonprofit's model of building educational skills through one-on-one mentoring. This fall she'll join the world's largest reading event when Jumpstart holds its fourth annual National Read for the Record Day on October 8. "Books allow you to relate to what you don't understand, which teaches you compassion," says Parker. "It's why I'm so passionate about the organization."


One way Jumpstart will launch this year's literacy initiative is through a limited-edition rerelease of The Very Hungry Caterpillar. The version of the classic book, which will be read to almost 1 million children worldwide, comes with instructions on how to engage young readers. $9;

The actress reads from The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle, at the Westside Children's Center in Culver City, Calif.


"Afterward, we got into some arts and crafts," says Parker. "We made our own caterpillars from sticks and pom-poms."


"It's amazing how kids respond immediately to a good book," Parker says. "It's so simple, but they just love it."

How You Can Help

Make a pledge to read to young students at a school, or host a reading event in your hometown on October 8 (sign up and download the tool kit at Or donate: $50 can provide a preschool with a library of 20 books. "There are kids who don't have access to books," says Parker. "That limits their opportunities immeasurably. Nothing but good can come from teaching children to read."