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‘Reach Out and Read’ Expands Literacy Message on Military Bases

By Sharon Foster
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 27, 2009 – “Reach Out and Read,” an early childhood literacy organization, has secured more than $1 million in Defense Department funding to expand its military initiative on military bases across the country.

The national, nonprofit program promotes early literacy during routine pediatric care by having volunteers read aloud in waiting rooms. Providers also offer tips to parents about the importance of reading aloud to children.

“Our first military site started in 1999,” said Stacie D. Fredriksson, manager of military programs and special initiatives at the Reach Out and Read National Center. “Today, we present a unique opportunity to support and strengthen even more military families with young children.”

U.S. Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, called the program “a proven success.”

“It helps doctors and nurses at military treatment facilities encourage parents to read to their children and gives them the tools to get started,” Reed said while touring Naval Health Clinic in Rhode Island, a pilot site where he saw the program in action. “I am particularly pleased to see the excitement of the kids on base.”

The program was launched at the clinic last fall. It, like all military bases participating in the program, has created a literacy-rich waiting room, complete with child-sized furniture and bookcases where trained volunteers model reading with the children while they wait for appointments.

“I don’t think you can say enough about the positive effects,” Anthony Amaio, a pediatrician at the clinic, said. “When children and parents share books that deal with deployment, it encourages discussion and provides an opportunity to determine how well the child is dealing with their parent’s absence. Reading books together that deal with deployment opens up dialogue, and lets the child know that they’re not the only one going through this.”

As part of the initiative, pediatricians at 27 U.S. military bases across the country and three outside the United States, send their young patients home with a free book. Currently, children at the military sites receive the book, “While You Were Away,” by Eileen Spinelli. The organization plans to provide the book, “Over There,” by Dorinda Silver Williams, to all Reach Out and Read sites.

The group’s military initiative is funded by the Defense Department and jointly administered with Strategic Resources Inc.

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