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Hooked on Reading

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By Dennis Van Roekel, President of the National Education Association

It starts early. When we are maybe age three or four or five. When we are young and impressionable. Someone close to us opens a book and reads to us about animals that talk, ghosts that live in haunted castles or pirates in search of buried treasure.

And we are hooked. We can't wait for someone to read us another story that causes our imaginations to run wild. If you've ever shared a book with a child, you know the joy and excitement this small act can bring. It's almost comical how some children want to hear the same story over and over and over — they are so spellbound by it.

Research shows that children who are read to at home have a higher success rate in school and frequently develop stronger reading skills. Reading is the foundation of education.

Unfortunately, too many children have no one to read to them. The National Center for Education Statistics tells us that almost 50 percent of children ages three to five do not get read to on a daily basis. This is staggering.

We at the National Education Association (NEA) are working to change this. We offer a number of resources to help educators improve reading instruction and to help parents develop reading skills in their children. And each year we host Read Across America, an initiative that celebrates reading and literacy and encourages more adults to spend time reading with their children.

On March 2, across our nation, millions of teachers, education support professionals, community members, and parents will visit classrooms and libraries and community centers and read books to spellbound children as part of Read Across America. Many superstar entertainers, athletes and political leaders will break from their busy schedules to sit with a group of children and read to them.

This date — March 2 — is significant to us at NEA and to the world of children's books because it is the birthday of Dr. Seuss. It is a day when we celebrate his gift for telling stories that stimulate the minds of children, and adults too. And it is one of my favorite days of the year. I know how excited children get at these events because I've been there, yes, in my red-and white-striped stovepipe hat.

Of course, NEA does not do this alone. Over the 15 years we've been running this initiative, corporations, businesses, and nonprofits have teamed up with NEA to help promote reading and literacy. This year, we are teaming with Mazda, Universal Pictures, and Seuss Enterprises to share the story of Dr. Seuss's The Lorax. Universal will release the movie, The Lorax, on NEA's Read Across America day — March 2. And Mazda has agreed to donate up to $1 million dollars to public school libraries through various promotions.

Why do businesses join in this effort? The reason is simple. They know that reading translates into academic success. It means fewer high school dropouts and more college graduates.

As the National Academy of Science seminal report on reading (Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children) states: "Research consistently shows that children who get off to a good start in reading rarely stumble; those who fall behind tend to stay behind the rest of their academic lives."

All children should have the opportunity to get off to a good start in reading. Through Read Across America and our other work on reading, we are hoping to give it to them. So, join us on March 2.

Learn more at Read Across America.


Views expressed in this post are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the endorsement of the Learning First Alliance or any of its members.

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