For Abdus-Salaam Washington it was a morning he had been looking forward to for months - one in which his four children would return to school.

And he was eager to walk the three younger ones from his home in Tioga today to nearby Kenderton Elementary School and to a day-care center near his job at an Erie Avenue barber shop.

"I love my kids, and I enjoy walking them to school," said Washington, 30, after dropping off his son Mikal Sims, 8, daughter Cierrah Washington, 6, at Kenderton Elementary at 15th and Ontario Streets in North Philadelphia.

Washington was among hundreds of fathers in Philadelphia who walked their children to school for the first day of classes as part of an national effort to encourage more men to become active in their children's education and to increase safety for children in route to and from school.

The program called "A Day of Male Responsibility," is being coordinated in Philadelphia by the House of Umoja, a West Philadelphia organization dedicated to improving the lives of young people, especially young men.

Falaka Fattah, the cofounder of the House of Umoja, said, "The idea came out of a program in Chicago about four years ago." She said it was launched by ann organization known as the Black Star Project, Million Father March.

Fattah's husband, David Fattah, who is spearheading the project in Philadelphia said that, in addition to encouraging greater parental involvement in school and increasing safety for children, the project "is about bringing people together."

Contact Inquirer staff writer Vernon Clark at 215-854-5717 or vclark@phillynews.com