By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Reading aloud to a pre-schooler has long been touted by educators as an important building block to a child’s success in later life. But now, health care experts are also encouraging the practice. And lawmakers are helping them get the message across.
During a recent visit to the Caribbean-American Family Health Center, at 3414 Church Ave., state Sen. Kevin Parker (D-East Flatbush) emphasized the importance of reading early and often to small children.
His visit to the center, a facility sponsored by Lutheran Family Health Centers, highlighted the work of Reach Out and Read of Greater New York, a program that encourages parents to prepare their children for kindergarten by reading aloud to them every day.
"As we all know, children who are read to by their parents and grandparents, and who read early and often, are more likely to succeed in school and life," Parker said. "Children are our future, and we must all do our best to help them succeed, and to help them lift our community upward."
By the time children from low-income families enter kindergarten, they are typically 12-14 months below national norms in language and pre-reading skills, according to officials from Lutheran Family Health Centers, who cited studies done in recent years. Through Reach Out and Read, pediatricians try to fight this developmental gap by giving families free books and by counseling them on the importance of reading aloud for healthy language development.
"We are very happy to participate in the Reach Out and Read Program," said Dr. Anita Beecham-Robinson, director of the Caribbean-American Family Health Center. "Reading aloud plays a crucial role in a child's language development. That's why we encourage parents to read to their children at an early age.”
There are Reach Out and Read programs at 42 hospitals and health centers in Brooklyn, including five of the Lutheran Family Health Network clinics: the Caribbean-American Family Health Center, Sunset Park Family Health Center, Park Slope Family Health Center, Park Ridge Family Health Center, and the Family Physician Health Center.
Last year, over 71,000 Brooklyn children participated in the Reach Out and Read program.
Reach Out and Read of Greater New York distributes books to a quarter of a million children annually at 185 locations throughout New York City, Westchester, Putnam, Rockland, Dutchess, Orange, Sullivan and Ulster Counties. The New York program is part of the nationwide Reach Out and Read movement.
Reach Out and Read is a nonprofit organization that prepares America's youngest children to succeed in school by working with doctors to prescribe books and encourage families to read together. Reach Out and Read's 28,460 volunteer doctors and nurse practitioners provided 6.4 million new books to 3.9 million children at 4,779 healthcare locations in all 50 states.