Area reading improvements highlighted

Published 2:27 am Thursday, April 19, 2012

g a head start: Dr. Patricia Kendrick Robinson talks to a crowd of community leaders Wednesday about the benefits of books for children at earlier stages of development. Robinson, of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine Inc., has seen the benefits of partnering with the program Reach Out and Read-Alabama, which promotes literacy inside healthcare facilities. -- Desiree Taylor

Health and educational statistics surrounding Alabama often seem dismal compared to other states; one governmental agency has recently announced good news for the state, reporting a drop in illiteracy rates.

According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, Alabama has seen a dramatic improvement in literacy. The recent report shows that only 15 percent of Alabamians lack basic reading skills — down from 21 percent in 1992.

One local healthcare provider has partnered with Reach Out and Read-Alabama, a nonprofit organization, to ensure that literacy rates in Dallas County continue to climb.

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Pediatric Adolescent Medicine Inc., held a luncheon Wednesday for community and business leaders about the reading program and its mission to partner with doctors and healthcare providers to prescribe books to their young patients and encourage reading.

Dr. Patricia Kendrick Robinson said she believes in the program so much, that she has assigned a volunteer to read to patients while they wait. Results, Robinson said, have been positive.

“It’s more than just reading,” Robinson said. “Reading makes a difference and a tremendous impact. We really enjoy this program … reading is always going on … and it’s a joy to us.”

Located in more than 4,000 health centers across the nation, Reach Out and Read programs serve more than 3.9 million children and families, encouraging parents about the importance of reading aloud and giving developmentally-appropriate books to children beginning at 6 months.

Polly McClure, Statewide coalition director for Reach Out and Read, said the program is crucial, especially for parents who can’t afford to buy their children books.

“We are preparing America’s youngest children to succeed in schools by partnering with pediatric health care providers and offering them books (to take home after regular checkups),” McClure said. “Families that live in poverty and come from single-parent homes use a third of less words than those of higher socioeconomic status. Our goal is that all children in Alabama will enter kindergarten performing at grade level and are prepared to excel.”

Child development experts, Robinson said, urge parents to build a relationship with their children through reading.

“Reading helps expose kids to new words and new worlds, and it helps bring families closer together,” Robinson said.