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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.

Moore on Education Equality continued...

But she never forgot what she'd learned as an "Army brat." Years later, as charities came calling for a bit of her time, Moore elected to work with Save the Children on programs aimed at alleviating poverty among U.S. children.

"I have a friend who knew someone working with Save the Children, and he told me about all the places I could go and help in Asia and Africa. But I said my area of interest is the United States," she says. "Part of the deal with being American is that we're supposed to go out and help everybody in the rest of the world, but to do that we have to help the children here."

That's a lesson she's always taught her own kids. When Liv was younger, her elementary school did their own card campaign, donating the proceeds to buy toys for a nursery school wiped out in a tornado. "My daughter is a great bake sale person," she says. "She'll make cookies and sit on the stoop with a sign saying 'Bake sale for Japan!'"

How the Economy Affects Children

As America's economic recession lurches into its fourth year, the tentacles of poverty are squeezing more U.S. kids. "The common notion of poverty is the child in the ghetto, and it's true that about 29% of kids in major cities live in poverty," says Beth Mattingly, PhD, director of research on vulnerable families at the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire. "But 1 in 4 kids in rural America is growing up in poverty, too." Mattingly adds that between 2009 and 2010, an additional 1 million American children became poor. How can you help? Mattingly offers some tips:

Speak up. Urge your senator, representative, and state legislators to vote for programs that are good for children, such as child-care subsidies for low-income working families, pre-kindergarten  programs, and school-based health centers. For more policy ideas, visit the National Center for Children in Poverty (nccp.org) and the Birth to Five Policy Alliance (birthtofivepolicy.org).

Take heart. Buy Valentine's Day cards from Save the Children (available at savethechildren.org/valentines). Proceeds support Save the Children's U.S. education programs.

Teach your children. Give them the opportunity to give back, like Moore does with her kids. One great option: Milk + Bookies (milkandbookies.org), a nonprofit organization that gets children involved in choosing and donating books to kids who don't have them. Consider making the next birthday celebration a "Milk and Bookies" party -- kids donate books instead of bringing presents.

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