When you think about children’s health needs, you may think of wholesome food, healthy exercise, and safety ensured by watchful caregivers. You should also think about literacy.
The first five years are an important window for brain development, language learning, and pre-literacy skill development. By the time kids start school, that window has closed. Kids who are read to before they start school have some real advantages. Not only do they read more comfortably when they get to school, they are also less likely to have problems with substance abuse and more able to reach their life potential.
Yet many parents don’t realize how important it is to read to their children. Some parents don’t have books in their homes or take the time to read to their kids.
The National Center for Education Statistics estimates that 13% of adults in Washington County are functionally illiterate and 43% have only basic literacy. While these numbers are better than average for the state and slightly better than the nation, we still have a lot of work to do to reach full literacy.
Starting with the youngest members of our community is the best way to make the biggest difference.
Reach Out and Read builds on the special relationship between pediatricians and parents to encourage parents to read to their babies and children. Starting at the six month well baby check up, pediatricians like Dr. Swindle in the photo above give children books and explain to their parents how important reading is for kids.
15 independent studies of the program have found that families participating in the program own more books and enjoy reading more, and that the children in the program have larger vocabularies and are more successful in schools. Nationwide, the program serves more than four million children each year.
Northwest Arkansas Pediatrics participates in Reach Out and Read. Dr. James Swindle is one of the Medical Advisors for the program.
If your child under age 5 is a patient at Northwest Arkansas Pediatrics, you will automatically be included in Reach Out and Read. You can support the program by donating at the Arkansas Reach Out and Read website.