Children of Bellevue is very happy to honor NBC’s TODAY co-anchor Al Roker and senior producer Jaclyn Levin at the 2012 Toast to the Children for their vast contributions to the cause of children’s literacy. Mr. Roker and Ms. Levin launched “Al’s Book Club for Kids” in April of 2007, with its first pick The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. Now celebrating its fifth anniversary, the segment airs six to eight times a year and features the very best of children’s literature with such classics as The Hardy Boys (the complete set is in this year’s silent auction) and James and the Giant Peach and new works of fiction like The Search for Wondla by previous Toast to the Children Honoree Tony DiTerlizzi and Bird in a Box by Andrea Davis Pinkney.
As a host and weatherman of NBC’s TODAY, Mr. Roker needs very little introduction. After all, he, along with Ann Curry and Matt Lauer, has the undivided attention of the nation (over 32 million viewers per week) every weekday morning as America prepares for work. Spanning a 35-year plus career and a twelve-time Emmy winner, Mr. Roker conducts interviews with celebrities and newsmakers around the world and does a wide variety of segments on every imaginable subject. He is the host of NBC’s annual network specials, such as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Christmas Tree Lighting at Rockefeller Center, and The Rose Bowl Parade.
Mr. Roker is also an accomplished television producer. He is CEO of Al Roker Entertainment, Inc. (ARE); www.alrokerentertainment.com, a thriving multimedia company involved in the development and production of network, cable, home video, and public television projects. ARE produces programming for a diverse clientele including NBC News, MSNBC, Spike TV, Lifetime Television, A&E, The History Channel, E!, Discovery Networks, PBS, TV ONE, Oxygen, The Cartoon Network and NBC Television Stations Group.
Mr. Roker is also a bestselling author with five acclaimed books to his credit. His recent titles include his Billy Blessing series of novels including The Morning Show Murders, published in November 2009, and The Midnight Show Murders, published in November 2010. The next book in the series, The Talk Show Murders was released in December 2011.
He is married to ABC News Correspondent, Deborah Roberts. They live in Manhattan with their two children, Leila 13, and Nicky 9. Mr. Roker also has a daughter, Courtney, 24, who is a culinary arts student.
Ms. Levin joined NBC in 1994 and TODAY in 2006. She has two children herself, Theo and Greta, who were the main driving force behind her wanting to create a kids’ book club. They are both huge readers, and in the beginning when they were younger, they played a large role in the books selected for the segment. Ms. Levin has won three Emmy Awards while at TODAY among other awards. She has been involved with DancingDreams.org and jstart.org over the last few years as each of her children began working these groups. Ms. Levin would like to thank fellow producers Amanda Marshall and Katie Buckley for their hard work on and dedication to “Al’s Book Club for Kids.”
Q & A with Al Roker
Q: What is your favorite children’s book from your own childhood?
Al Roker: Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss. I just love the idea of some guy brow- beating another guy into trying something he never wanted to try. And then low and behold he likes it.
Q: How do you go about choosing your selections and do you have a favorite?
AR: Truth be told, I don’t make the selections. I have a terrific group of producers and take suggestions from audience members, from publishers, and from just plain folks, and make the selections. And you know what? They’ve never been wrong yet. I think our very first book was my all-time favorite, The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. It is the perfect combination of graphic novel, novel, and a movie story board. If you need more proof of how great this book is, check out the movie Hugo – it is a perfect translation of the book.
Q: If you could interview any character from a children’s book on the TODAY show, who would it be and why?
AR: I think it would have to be the Grinch. I mean let’s face it, why is he so angry? I know there was the movie, but I don’t think it really covered everything. And it’s very impressive that such an angry, angry man would have the transformative experience to make his heart grow three sizes on that magical day. It would be a very compelling interview.
Q: Since Children of Bellevue serves some of New York City’s most needy children, what words of encouragement would you give them to follow their dreams?
AR: I would say to keep reading and keep dreaming. Reading allows you to dream, and dreaming allows you to read. Reading can transport you to a place where you never thought you could go. Once you get to that place, who knows where you will go next.