Goodnight Moon, Caps for Sale, Where the Wild Things Are, Corduroy—and the list of titles goes on and on. Just last month I packed up several boxes of children’s books. I checked with my children, grown now, about which I could donate and which they wanted to keep. We reminisced about the storybooks—deciding which were their favorites, flipping through the pages, looking at the wonderful illustrations and colorful text, and remembering reading the stories together. First I had read to each of them, and as they got older, my daughter and son read to me. Most of the time they were proud of their accomplishments, but other times I felt their pain and frustration as they learned this fundamental skill. Reading was an integral part of our bedtime routine, but story time was also part of our daytime routine.
Instilling a love for reading reaps long-term rewards
According to numerous literacy studies and childhood development experts, children with strong reading and writing skills and a love of books are more likely to be successful in school and in their adult lives than are children with weak skills. The National Commission on Reading states that reading aloud to children is the single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual reading success. Yet children from low-income families do not have access to the multitude of resources and opportunities that their peers without financial hardship receive. And the National Center for Children in Poverty reports that the achievement gap for low-income young children starts early in life and is difficult to reverse.
The most successful way to improve the reading achievement of low-income children is to increase their access to print. Reach Out and Read is a national nonprofit organization that promotes literacy as part of pediatric primary care. The goal is for children to grow up with a love of reading and to develop literacy skills early so these children can enter school prepared for success.
Pediatric healthcare providers support reading to young children
Reach Out and Read trains doctors and nurses to advise parents about the importance of reading aloud and to give books to children at pediatric checkups from 6 months to 5 years of age. The organization has a special focus on children growing up in poverty. Children participating in this program have been shown to enter kindergarten better prepared to succeed and have:
- Larger vocabularies
- Stronger language skills
- A 6-month developmental edge over their peers
HealthEd supports Reach Out and Read
HealthEd recognizes that these families need our help and has pledged to support the local chapter of Read Out and Read at the Bristol-Myers Squibb Children's Hospital at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. Throughout the year HealthEd donates new and developmentally appropriate books for children 6 months to 5 years old. In honor of health literacy month, please help nurture a love for reading among children from low-income families. To learn more, go to http://reachoutandread.org.