Doctors promoting child development with books

Published 8:31 am Monday, August 27, 2007

By By Jo Bonner
Traditionally, the month of August provides an opportunity for members of Congress to spend time in their districts holding town meetings, meeting with constituents, and visiting local businesses and organizations.
Earlier this month, I had the privilege to visit the Mostellar Medical Center in Irvington to read to a group of young children in support Reach Out and Read – Alabama (ROR-AL).
I don't think reading through a brochure or an information packet can provide nearly as adequate a view of how important this program is as talking first hand with the doctors and staff members as well as the parents and children who benefit from the services they provide.
ROR-AL seeks to make early literacy a standard part of pediatric primary care. Pediatricians encourage parents to read aloud to their young children and give books to their patients to take home at all pediatric check-ups from six months to five years of age.
Through the process, parents learn that reading aloud is the most important thing they can do to help their children love books and to start school ready to learn.
A 1985 National Commission on Reading study reported that reading aloud to children is the single most important activity for literacy development and eventual reading success.
Numerous studies have found that children who are read to from an early age are more successful at learning to read and that early exposure to print is an important part of literacy development.
Research on emergent literacy skills in young children found important links between their ability to read and their exposure to literacy experiences prior to school.
Doctors at Mostellar Medical Center provide free, developmentally appropriate books to their young, low-income patients. Each child who participates in ROR-AL starts kindergarten with a home library of up to 10 books.
ROR-AL, a branch of the Alabama chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, serves children at 39 locations across Alabama, reaching more than 37,800 infants, toddlers, and preschoolers each year. To find out more information, visit their website .
For those of us fortunate enough to be raised in a family that loved books or were read to as a child, it can be easy to take reading for granted.
However, the importance of reading to our children cannot be over-emphasized. ROR-AL continues to promote the significance of reading to and inspiring a love of books among our children.
Let freedom ring
Last week I also had the honor of participating in the "Let Freedom Ring" ceremony held at a Mobile Bay Bears game at Hank Aaron stadium. The ceremony honored Alabama service men and women who have served in Operations Noble Eagle, Enduring Freedom and/or Iraqi Freedom.
Earlier this year, both the Alabama House of Representatives and the Alabama Senate passed a resolution, which was signed by Governor Bob Riley, honoring all Alabama military personnel who have been deployed or who are currently deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan.
The resolution called for the minting of a replica of the original Liberty Bell which was presented during the ceremony and will be permanently displayed within the Alabama Capitol complex.
I was privileged to make a few remarks to try to express the profound debt of gratitude for the sacrifice these men and women have made in answering our country's call during this difficult and challenging time.
Service above self is the principle of these men and women as well as the millions of others who have gone to Iraq and Afghanistan, Vietnam and Korea, Germany and Japan, or Bosnia and Somalia. You name the place – when their country called, their answer has always been the same.
Interning: a valuable experience
This summer 23 young Alabamians interned on my staff, in Washington, Mobile, and Baldwin County. It was heartening for both my staff and me to spend time with these individuals and see firsthand the future leaders of our country are top notch.
Each student completed a four week internship and assisted in the daily operations of the office. Eighteen students from southwest Alabama spent the summer in the nation's capital working in my Washington, D.C. office where they researched issues, attended hearings, and conducted tours of the U.S. Capitol building in addition to receiving Congressional Research Service certification.
If you are from Baldwin, Clarke, Escambia, Mobile, Monroe, or Washington County and have completed at least one semester of college, you are eligible for a congressional internship.
My office will begin accepting applications this fall for the summer of 2008. For more information please contact Suzannah Weeks in my Washington office at 202-225-4931 or visit the student section of my website .
My staff and I work for you. If we can ever be of service, do not hesitate to call my office toll free at 1-800-288-8721.
Jo Bonner is a U.S. congressman. His column appears weekly.

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