WINNSBORO — This new year patients at Winnsboro Pediatrics and Ridgeway Family Practice have some help meeting a new year’s resolution, as parents resolve to read.
Resolve to Read is a collaboration of the Reach Out and Read program and Read Aloud 15 Minutes that encourages parents to read aloud to their children for fifteen minutes each day.
“Resolve to Read is an early literacy program that works through the medical community to reach families and builds on the parent-provider relationship within a child’s first five years,” said Callee Boulware, executive director of Reach Out and Read Carolinas.
Books and child development
The overarching goal is to help build healthy habits for child rearing, including an understanding of the importance of reading to a child daily.
In fact, daily reading sessions are prescribed at every well doctor’s visit and the parent and child leave the office with a new book in hand so they can carry out the doctor’s orders.
Doctors meet with parents to assess and discuss children’s developmental progress physically and cognitively. According to Boulware one great way for a doctor to observe a child’s cognition is by watching that child interact with a book.
“There is an age appropriate way to interact with a book as part of a check up,” she said.
Boulware said that statistically children in low income homes likely have problems reaching school on pace where reading is concerned.
“The disparity is telling,” she said. “Children from low incomes are exposed to 30 million fewer words by age three than their peers. We know the first 36 months of a child’s life are the most critical for brain development, she said. It is essential to expose babies to language, so the skill can be returned (through interaction over time).”
A great way to increase the amount of language a child is exposed to is to read to the child more often, she said. The reading time can be combined with cuddle time, special pajamas, or other fun things so a child has a positive association with reading and sharing books.
“Children sitting in a (parent or guardian’s) lap and being read to translates into school success,” Boulware said.
Reading prescriptions matter
Physicians are important to the program. Not only to medical professionals send the prescriptions to read, but they send books to that home.
Physicians choose books they’d like to give to their patient populations. Information about additional reading resources is made available in doctor office waiting rooms as well.
The waiting room can be a point of access to other programs such as the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, with whom Resolve to Read coordinates some efforts.
“Over 15 peer reviewed studies demonstrate the outcome (of benefit) from changing parent interaction with children and show that parents or guardians are four times more likely to read to their children if they are prescribed to,” Boulware said.
A testament to this intervention model is physicians doing the program over time, she said, noting that nationally the program has been in place over 24 years.
The community can help physicians to continue to provide books to families each year. The program has been in Fairfield for over ten years and been in South Carolina since 1998.
The parent education component is one thing she said really makes the program effective because parents serve a child’s first, and most important, teachers. Familiarity with books and words helps children arrive at school ready to learn instead of having to remediate first.
Boulware pointed out how books are expensive but that building a home library is an important tool to incorporate reading into a family’s daily life.
In Fairfield County, the program serves about 1,700 children. About 3,500 books are provided in Fairfield County and yearly about 26,000 books are provided across South Carolina.
The program exists thanks to a variety of private funding sources including corporations, individuals, national publishers, the United Way and the Central Carolina Community Foundation.
“Our program works best when local businesses and civic organizations adopt the practices,” Boulware said, “because through early intervention they can get an unmatched bang for their buck.”
For more information about sponsoring this reading initiative, people may call the state office of Resolve to Read at 877-367-8839 or go to www.rorcarolinas.org.