Teresa Heinz Kerry (search) visited a Head Start center on Monday and extolled the need for the federally funded early childhood program.
The wife of Democratic presidential challenger John Kerry (search) hosted a round-table discussion with staff, parents and administrators at the Grace Hill Head Start center before the real fun began.
As she prepared to read to a group of preschoolers, a boy put a stuffed caterpillar on her shoulder and the children giggled as she recoiled in mock horror.
More than 20 million children have participated in the early education program for low-income children, which President Johnson started. Advocates say participants enter school better prepared and are more likely to graduate high school.
Heinz Kerry said it's important for the government to continue spending money on programs like Head Start.
"We know this works," she said. "I think we have to make a commitment for those who fall through the cracks.