From an artist to a zookeeper, and meteorologist to mayor, every child born in Jacksonville deserves the opportunity to pursue his or her dreams. In celebration of his own birthday (July 19), Mayor Lenny Curry joined his family, executives from local hospitals and community leaders to launch What I Can Be From A to Z, an initiative developed to inspire dreams and demonstrate support for our city's youngest citizens.
“Every child has a dream,” said Mayor Curry. “I wanted to be an NFL linebacker. From my earliest years, I always knew my parents believed in me and supported my wildest dreams and greatest passions. As mayor, I believe that we should be doing the same for our city’s kids - investing in programs and supporting initiatives that build brighter futures, pathways and opportunities for youth and families throughout Jacksonville.”
Each year, approximately 12,000 – 14,000 babies are born in Jacksonville. Research has shown that reading regularly with young children stimulates brain development, improves literacy and strengthens parent-child relationships. Children from language rich families hear 10 times more words than children from underprivileged families which often results in improved school performance. One-third of American children start school without adequate language skills to succeed. In addition, statistics support that children born in low- and moderate- income families face greater barriers in achieving educational opportunities that contribute to their success.
The What I Can Be From A to Z initiative includes a nearly 40 page book filled with colorful children's artwork depicting careers and professions that correspond to each letter of the alphabet. Described as "a promising journey for Jacksonville's youngest citizens," the book will be distributed to babies born in local hospitals including Baptist, Memorial, UF Health, and St. Vincent’s. Each book, which also features a poem for parents to read aloud to their newborns, will include a Happy Birthday card from the mayor, and a bookmark encouraging parents to register their infants for a library card.
The early learning and school readiness initiative began out of Duval County Public Schools with support from the Chartrand Family Fund at the Community Foundation for Northeast Florida, and has been expanded through a $25,000 donation provided by Construction & Engineering Consultants which allows the City to give the What I Can Be From A to Z book to every baby born in a Jacksonville hospital over the next year. Additional contributors to the book include Duval County Public Schools/retired Early Childhood Specialist Deborah L. Starling Phillips (poem), City Kids Art Factory students (illustrations), and Douglas Anderson School of the Arts student Victoria Sherwood (book cover art).
View photos from the book launch event.
About the City of Jacksonville
The City of Jacksonville is the largest city by land mass in the continental United States, serving approximately 850,000 residents. Located in Duval County, City of Jacksonville leadership includes the mayor and a 19-member City Council. To learn more about the City of Jacksonville, visit COJ.net.