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Save the Children: Julianne Moore on U.S. Poverty, Being 50, and Losing Her Mom

Actress/author Julianne Moore puts her heart into family, career, and improving children's lives this Valentine's Day.

Julianne Moore: Champion for Children continued...

As a Save the Children artist ambassador, Moore helps promote the annual Valentine's Day card sale campaign to raise funds for kids' initiatives in the United States. One, called Literacy Block, gives kindergartners through eighth-graders supported activities that help them grow as readers with guided independent reading practice, fluency-building support, and listening to books read aloud.

Moore's interest is to do something about the link between poverty and literacy. Research shows that by age 4, poor children are 18 months behind their peers developmentally. At age 10, this gap persists. When they grow up, that difference in skills matters; people with low levels of education have higher rates of unemployment.

"Our literacy work encompasses just about everything we do, from early childhood education to early cognitive skills, all with the goal that by the time they're in fourth grade, kids are no longer learning to read, but reading to learn," says Jennifer Kaleba, director of marketing and communications for Save the Children's U.S. programs.

"Valentine's Day is as big as Halloween for kids," Moore says. "I was very involved with Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF as a kid, and I thought, ‘Why don't we attach something about U.S. poverty to Valentine's Day and allow kids to help one another?’"

Past cards have featured children's art, but this year the cards will be recognizable to many parents, designed by favorite children's book illustrators such as Mo Willems (Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!), Ian Falconer (Olivia), Kevin Henkes (Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse), Brian Selznick (The Invention of Hugo Cabret), and LeUyen Pham, who illustrates Moore's own Freckleface Strawberry series, inspired by her childhood nickname.

Moore on Education Equality

The days when she was "Freckleface Strawberry" in school were also the days Moore developed an early sense of the inequality in kids' education. Her military family moved often, and she attended at least nine schools -- some on a military base but most of them local public schools.

"The one thing I knew as a child was it's not fair that the education you get depends on where you live," she recalls. "We were all over the South, and then we lived in Nebraska for awhile, and I saw what schools were like in areas that were just strapped. Then I went to school in Alaska, where the public elementary school served an array of economic needs. The lieutenant governor's kid was in my class, and so was a little girl from the Native American community who had fetal alcohol syndrome."

From there, Moore's family -- her father eventually became a military judge, while her mother was a social worker -- moved to Westchester County, N.Y. "There, everything was so opulent, and nobody appeared to have any needs at all."

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