Harkin and Moran share a fondness for children's books

You might expect senators to say they like to read serious political authors like Bob Woodward, or historians like Doris Kearns Goodwin. But not Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa). He's partial to British children's author Roald Dahl.

And when it comes to how he likes to read the man behind classics like "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" or "The BFG," Harkin prefers to read them out loud.

That's because the lawmaker is a volunteer reading mentor, along with his colleague, Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, for a group called "Everybody Wins! DC," a District literacy program that pairs volunteers and elementary school children for lunchtime reading. Harkin goes every Tuesday.

Harkin first learned about the program from the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), a longtime reading mentor. On Tuesday night, Kennedy's widow, Vicki Kennedy, presented Harkin and Moran with awards at the 15th anniversary gala for Everybody Wins! DC.

Kennedy told the crowd how much her late husband had enjoyed coming into District schools on Tuesdays, and how he would alter his schedule to make sure he could be there for lunchtime reading. Regardless of what was going on in the Senate, she said, this was his time to step away to spend time with the kids.

Harkin feels the same way. "It's a time when I can just turn off my Blackberry," he said. Now, after years of reading in the program, Harkin said his favorite book is "The Giant Peach." (Umm, that's "James and the Giant Peach," senator) but it's generous of him, either way.

Both Harkin and Moran praised members of their staff who also participate in the reading program, including, from Harkin's team, Susan Keith, Caitlin Staebel and Brianna Rodriguez, and from Moran's team, Clare McIntyre, Barry Londeree, and Austin Durrer.