Many of us have a fond memory with a book as the focal point: one that was read to us countless times by parents or grandparents, or maybe even the first we read on our own, which for me was Amazing Grace. But it wasn’t until a few years ago that I started to realize how fortunate I was to have books surrounding me from birth along with people who cared enough to read them.
I started volunteering with Reach Out and Read at an inner city hospital in Minneapolis. The volunteer coordinator started our training by holding up a file folder with the word “upscuddle” scrawled on it. Assuming this was a word many of us were not familiar with, she went on to say that children who have been read to have more than quadruple the vocabulary coming into kindergarten than their counterparts. The comparison was drawn: the confusion I felt at the word “upscuddle” happens on a moment-to-moment basis for children with a limited vocabulary, reading and writing skills.
Reach Out and Read seeks to prevent this gap in skills and provide all children with a strong foundation for success. At every well child visit from birth to age 5 a child being seen at a Reach Out and Read clinic will receive an age appropriate book. While the book itself is incredibly important to a family, it represents much more to a health care provider. For them Reach Out and Read books are diagnostic tools, allowing measurement of developmental milestones. They also provide an entry into a conversation about literacy, the importance of reading, and modeling reading that doesn’t just follow the text—a skill that is incredibly important for parents who have limited literacy themselves.
Children need this investment in their education from birth. Reach Out and Read is an incredibly low cost and successful program that seeks to provide parents and caregivers with the basic tools necessary to give a child confidence to read that first book on their own, and hopefully to grow up with a love of reading.
Please help us support Reach Out and Read in Madison Area clinics and the Pediatric Early Literacy Project by participating in the Bookin’ it for Books 5K on Sunday April 15th from 8:30-10am on the Lakeshore Path behind Memorial Union. You can register online at www.uwhealthkids.org/books or the day of the race. All proceeds raised will benefit Reach Out and Read.