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Reading is Essential for Arkansasí Development

The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends that early literacy intervention be a standard part of pediatric care for children ages six months to five years.




Illiteracy does not just happen in isolation.  It is an intergenerational phenomenon affecting individuals, families, communities, and regions.


In Arkansas, it is estimated that 56 percent of all adults read at only a fourth grade level or below. In some Arkansas communities, that figure reaches as high as 78 percent. Early literacy experiences for infants, toddlers and preschoolers are critical to brain development and healthy outcomes in children.  Age-appropriate books in the home are key developmental tools, yet, when parents donít read well (or at all), donít have access to books, or donít know the importance of sharing books with babies, it is highly unlikely that their children will receive this important source of stimulation in the home. 


Here in Arkansas, the Arkansas Department of Education estimates that 50 percent of our children are not prepared with the skills they need to succeed in kindergarten.  According to 2000 census data, that means that more than 90,000 of the 181,791 children under the age of 5 who reside here are at risk.



Preschoolers who have not been read to regularly are not ready for school.  Early literacy experience is vital to brain development.  Because sharing books with babies and young children promotes language development and emergent literacy skills (the precursors of formal reading) it is essential to helping children succeed in school.  Yet, recent national studies have shown that 60 percent of families in poverty have no books in the home, and children in poverty are read to for an average of only twenty-five hours from birth to age five.  This figure stands in stark contrast to the average number of hours that middle-class children have been read to prior to kindergarten: 1500 hours.


Reading to infants, toddlers, and preschoolers brings positive results in the near term, but it also lowers the risk of numerous negative outcomes connected to school failure and the attendant low self-esteem Ė school truancy and dropping out, violence, substance abuse, and teen pregnancy, among others.



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(Applications to Reach Out and Read must be submitted by a staff member of a clinic or hospital providing outpatient health supervision visits to children 6 months to 5 years of age.)


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