One of our agenda items in late spring 2008 was a letter from our local area public health nurse (Karen Dolley) and it contained an interesting proposition! Karen heard about our “literacy” work and rightly thought we’d be interested in giving her a hand. Karen already had the program in place in the Dover and Milo area thanks to the support of local Kiwanis Key Clubs.
Karen visits mothers expecting (or who have recently had) new infants who typically are low or no income and have a need for many state services such as Maine Care and Food Stamps. You don’t have to talk to Karen for long to know that she is passionate about literacy… and she incorporates that passion with her public health concern by encouraging parents and children to read together. Those of us who are bookworms know how much fun that is!
(Today I learned a lot about penguins and animal tracks. My reading buddy found it rather amusing that I didn’t do very well on the test at the end of the animal track book. But he’s lucky. His grandfather takes him on “bog hikes” to study nature!)
According to an article by “Newswise,” research shows that whether a child has been read aloud to on a regular basis is si the single biggest predictor of a child’s success in learning to read. University of Alabama Associate Professor of education Kathleen Martin, Ph.D. says, “Reading aloud to children helps them develop oral language. It teaches them how to listen and how narrative is structured. They also learn vocabulary and how print works and that it is read from left to right.”
Children who are not read aloud to often enter kindergarten and first grade lacking these skills, which Martin says are important for learning now to read.
“A lot of prents know that reading aloud to their children is important,” says Martin, “but often don’t realize that it continues to be of value as the child ages. Also, many parents probably have less time to read to their children these days.”
“It is never too early to begin reading aloud to children,” Martin said. Even infants can enjoy looking at illustrations in a book as their parents read to them. When children are past kindergarten they still need to be read aloud to in order to learn about more complicated subjects and how to listen to and comprehend more sophisticated text,” Martin said.
However, parents should never force children to listen to a text if the child is bored by the material. Reading should always be presented as a fun activity.
So we “signed on” and now provide Karen with books–a fun activity for all involved. The program has been dubbed “Literacy for Health.” New and very gently used pre-school appropriate books qualify. Bring yours to the Grange Hall!