More than one-third of American children entering kindergarten today lack the basic language skills they will need to learn to read. So on June 23rd, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius joined together with doctors from the early literacy program Reach Out and Read to encourage every American parent to do the one thing that’s been proven to stimulate language development and prepare children to succeed in school: read to them every day.
Secretary Sebelius visited Takoma Park Pediatrics, which participates in Reach Out and Read, and served as a volunteer reader for children in the waiting room before taking a tour of the program.
Reach Out and Read (ROR) is a national early literacy program that focuses on young children at risk of entering school unprepared to learn. At every checkup, ROR doctors and nurse guide and encourage parents to read aloud to their young children every day, and give each child a carefully-selected, new, developmentally-appropriate book. By the time that child enters school, he or she will have a home library of up to 10 books through Reach Out and Read.
Reading aloud to children may seem like a common-sense solution, but unfortunately, far too few parents are actually doing it. In fact, a recent study commissioned by Reach Out and Read revealed that the majority of young children – 52% – are not being read to on a daily basis. That’s 13 million children under 6 years old who are going to bed every night without a bedtime story.
Reach Out and Read’s doctors and nurses are intent on changing that. To do that, they need the help of thousands of volunteers nationwide, who help to organize book drives for ROR Sites, read to children in clinic waiting rooms, and even paint colorful murals in the children’s reading corners.
As the volunteer reader for the day, Secretary Sebelius read “Silly Sally” and “From Head to Toe” to the young patients of Takoma Park Pediatrics. She also spoke with the children about the importance of reading and how much she loved to read to her own children when they were growing up. Secretary Sebelius then gave each child a copy of “The Okay Book” by Todd Parr to take home.
Dr. Sith Sadhasivam and Dr. Lavanya Sithanandam from Takoma Park Pediatrics and Reach Out and Read’s National Medical Director Dr. Perri Klass thanked Secretary Sebelius for her support of early literacy and joined her in challenging all parents to read to their children daily and all Americans to give back by volunteering in their communities through the United We Serve initiative.
There are more than 4,500 Reach Out and Read Sites spread across all 50 states. For more information or to find a Reach Out and Read Site in your area that needs volunteers, please visit www.reachoutandread.org or www.serve.gov.