Remember the adage “An apple a day keeps the doctor away?” Well, pediatricians have a new one: “A book a day builds your brain today!” OK, I just made that little ditty up. But there is a lot of research, and, now, a national effort, that supports just how vital reading really is.
The American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) made big news back in June 2014 when they announced that doctors will begin dispensing some new advice to parents of young children. During well-child visits, pediatricians will inform parents and caregivers that reading aloud, along with singing and talking to young children on a daily basis, contributes to brain development and kindergarten readiness. According to AAP’s president, James M. Perrin, “fewer than half of children younger than five years old [in the U.S.] are read to daily.” Combine this unfortunate statistic with the “30 million word gap” that contributes to a learning deficit, particularly among poor children, and the time was ripe for doctors to prescribe reading far and wide.
Now, you might be saying, “Well, yes, we know this.” Children’s librarians commonly offer similar recommendations during family story times, early literacy classes, and parenting workshops. They go out into the community to talk to literacy groups, childcare providers, etc.“What more do you want us to do?”
Well, for one, check out the website: “Read Aloud 15 Minutes.”
”Read Aloud 15 Minutes is a nonprofit organization that is working to make reading aloud every day for at least 15 minutes the new standard in child care,” according to the site. “When every child is read aloud to for 15 minutes every day from birth, more children will be ready to learn when they enter kindergarten, more children will have the literacy skills needed to succeed in school, and more children will be prepared for a productive and meaningful life after school.”
In 2012, this group launched a simple call to action: Read Aloud for 15 Minutes, with a decade-long commitment: partnering with other organizations and businesses that are invested in child development and education to make reading aloud every day for 15 minutes the new parenting standard and thereby change the face of education in this country.
“Our goal is to have every library, hospital, daycare provider, literacy organization, and K–2 school sharing this message,” says cofounder and executive director Bob Robbins. He went on to say that projected statistics show “40 to 50 million babies will be born in the next decade in the U.S., and if nothing changes, then we know that 15 million of them will be ill-prepared for kindergarten.” Read Aloud for 15 Minutes is ambitious and enthusiastic with its goal: they want to aim their message at all socioeconomic levels, not just low-income ones. They are aiming for the proverbial sweet spot: systemic change.
So my hope for everyone who is reading this column? I want you to get your library to partner with this organization and help spread this message. Read Aloud for 15 Minutes has three main campaign “pulses” during the year. March is “Read Aloud” month, July is “Seize the Summer,” and coming up in October? “Let’s Talk! Nourishment of the Brain for Babies.” Perfect timing for you to sign up on their website under the “get involved” link and add yours to the growing list of partnering organizations before October’s campaign of “Let’s Talk!”
There is no financial commitment for partners. All you have to do is share the organization’s three monthly themes with your community. As of August, the organization had close to 1,000 partners with representation in all 50 states. Robbins stated that “we will rest when we have every library in the country involved in the campaign.”
So what are you waiting for? We could take that statistic of 1,000 partners and double or even triple it. And in the process, let’s showcase the power of children’s librarians by helping to spread this simple message, one child at a time.