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Resolve to read

Every parent of a young child should resolve to do one simple thing this year that can change their life – read to them every day. Reading to young children is proven to be the single most important thing a parent can do to ensure their child’s success in school. Not only does reading improve children’s language development – the single strongest predictor of school success – but it also brings parents and children closer together.

Yet, a study conducted for Reach Out and Read shows that fewer than half of American parents read to their children daily. Young children who aren’t read to are at the highest risk of reading below grade level when they begin school.

That is one reason why Reach Out and Read, a program proven to increase the number of parents who read to their youngest children daily, has expanded so quickly throughout IHS, tribal and urban clinics. Reach Out and Read partners with doctors to give free books to children and reading advice to parents during pediatric visits at the critical stage before children enter kindergarten. Reach Out and Read is a program that can help with the low test scores, low high school graduation rates and college matriculation rates that as a group, American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) children face.

Reach Out and Read focuses on the children at greatest risk – aged 6 months to 5 years living at or near poverty. Doctors distribute brand-new, culturally and developmentally-appropriate books. Each child who participates in Reach Out and Read starts kindergarten with a home library of up to 10 books and a parent who has heard at every regular checkup about the importance of books and reading.

It has been scientifically proven that parents who get books and literacy advice from their doctors are up to four times more likely to read to their young children, read to them more often, and provide more books in their homes. By utilizing the existing health care system to deliver books and literacy counseling, we can help ensure that every parent reads to their child every day, that every child enters school ready to learn, and that children have access to culturally-appropriate books.

This year, 40,000 AI/AN children will receive 53,000 new Reach Out and Read books at their pediatric checkups at 70 IHS, tribal and urban sites. More than 20 million books have been distributed nationwide through Reach Out and Read, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2009.

Reach Out and Read is proud to help so many of America’s children grow up with books and a love of reading, but it is critical that we redouble our efforts in the New Year to reach even more families. Please join us as we encourage every parent to resolve in 2009 to read to their young children daily so they can enter school prepared to succeed.

– William Flood, MD, FAAP
Co-Medical Director Reach Out and Read American Indian/Alaska Native
Chinle Comprehensive Health Care Facility
Chinle, Ariz.

– Steve Holve, MD, FAAP
Co-Medical Director Reach Out and Read American Indian/Alaska Native
Tuba City, Ariz.