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Kentucky Mayor wants children to read 1,000 books by kindergarten

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Much research exists proving that reading to young children and having them read to you is essential to the reading skills a child will take with them on their first day of formal education. A kindergarten teacher can immediately see the difference having books and being read to by parents makes in a child's ability to learn.

Researchers say that reading and being read to is as "important as brushing teeth" for four and five year-old children. The National Center for Education Statistics report that only 20 percent of children in poverty come to school ready to read. Statistic such as this can influence those who may be researching how to become an elementary school teacher.

Fortunately, most politicians have been quick to recognize this research and implement programs to encourage and promote reading for young children. For example, in Louisville, Kentucky, Mayor Greg Fischer is pushing to advance early childhood education by encouraging children to either read (or be read to) at least 1,000 books before beginning Kindergarten.

It is called the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten Challenge and is being promoted by the Louisville Free Public Library. It gives children a chance to win free books and other prizes. The governor's program is being sponsored by the Community Foundation of Louisville and the Louisville Library Foundation.

Announcement of the campaign came at a news conference with the governor and library director Craig Buthod held at the Main Library. Fischer contends that it is essential to prepare children for success in learning from day one. He calls the campaign "a fun and important learning initiative."

Buthold recognizes that a child's first and best teachers are parents. Studies show that when children are read to from infancy their language skills, vocabulary, attention span and listening skills, all skills a kindergarten teacher is responsible for improve dramatically.

According to Kentucky's first Kindergarten Readiness Assessment, only 35 percent of Jefferson County Public School's kindergartners enter school with the basic skills needed for learning successfully.

Politicians are not the only ones who recognize the importance of reading for young children. Dr. Dipesh Navsaria says that "read every day" may be the most important "prescription" he hands out to parents and young children. Dr. Dipesh is Medical Director of Wisconsin's Chapter of Reach Out and Read, a program founded in 1989 to serve at-risk children. Reach Out and Read partners with almost 5,000 program sites to distribute 6.5 million books per year.

Dr. Navsaria says that more than 12,000 of his colleagues say the same three-word prescription to parents and children through the program. Doctors say reading impacts health because succeeding in school leads to a satisfying career, greatly impacting a person's quality of life.

A free family event at the Main Library will kick off the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten Challenge. Parents can pick information on the program and materials at any public library.

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