You might think that actress Jane Kaczmarek and her husband Bradley Whitford would have a slew of televisions in their house. After all, they are both TV stars. Kaczmarek played the loving but firm mom on Malcolm in the Middle for seven seasons. Whitford was featured on The West Wing. But there’s just one set in the home the couple shares with their three children, ages 5, 8, and 10. “We don’t watch much,” says Kaczmarek. “We’re big readers.”
Kaczmarek, whose mother was a schoolteacher, developed her reading habit while growing up in Milwaukee, WI. (She even studied to be a teacher at the University of Wisconsin before becoming a theater major.) “I always loved going to the library,” she says. “There weren’t any giant bookstores back then. The library was also air-conditioned — which was a big lure,” she laughs. Now she enjoys sharing classic children’s books and biographies with her kids. She recently read Tom Sawyer with her son and a Helen Keller biography with her older daughter.
Kaczmarek and Whitford are also dedicated to helping kids less fortunate than their own. In 2002, they founded the Clothes Off Our Back Foundation. Celebrities donate clothing and accessories they’ve worn on the red carpet and on set, gift bags from awards ceremonies, and autographed memorabilia, and the items are then auctioned online to benefit a selection of national and international children’s charities. From June 2008 to May 2009, proceeds go to America’s Second Harvest, and H.E.L.P. Malawi, among others. The foundation has raised nearly $3 million in the past six years.
“As a mother, I realize how lucky I am,” says Kaczmarek. “My kids are healthy. They go to good schools. It breaks my heart when other children don’t have those things."