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Handing out books isn't enough — local pediatrician's nonprofit teaches parents, teachers how to engage

Daily Dose of Reading started in 1999 with reading 'prescriptions'
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Posted at 12:44 PM, Sep 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-02 14:34:47-04

Dr. Shelly Senders is passionate when it comes to kids — 35 years as a pediatrician in Northeast Ohio.

And in 1999, he founded an organization called Daily Dose of Reading.

“We developed these ‘prescriptions’ for reading, which I think is really one of the most interesting concepts because as physicians, [we] give out prescriptions for all sorts of things,” Dr. Senders said.

His practice, Senders Pediatrics, is in South Euclid.

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But over the years, the nonprofit realized it had a different mission.

Now, they work with childcare centers, HeadStart, and Pre-K programs — not just to give out books — but to go in and teach parents and teachers how to engage children with literacy.

“Our goal is to teach parents, to teach teachers, how to read to kids,” Senders said.

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Executive director Mike Armstrong said the focus is on children under age five because the need here in greater Cleveland is so great.

“Sixty percent of kids in the area aren’t ready for kindergarten and we know that 90% of a child’s brain is developed by age 5,” Armstrong said. “Ninety percent! That’s a huge piece, so that is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get to kids.”

He added that it doesn’t matter what you're passionate about — books can be the backbone.

“You care about the economy, early literacy is good for the economy. You care about social justice, it helps social justice. You care about crime, lowers crime rates,” Armstrong said. “You care about basic human kindness? It increases empathy.”

Armstrong said their research shows 50% of the children they dealt with who were reading deficient before the program aren’t after it is over.

And for Senders, it is a generational shift. He spoke about parents who recall never being read to as a child who are now constantly reading to their kids.

“I get goosebumps when I tell [that] kind of story because those are the kind of things we’re trying to do to change the world one kid at a time,” Senders said.

He also had two pieces of advice for parents and caregivers looking to boost their kid's reading.

First, go through every book in the children’s section in your local library — A to Z. It will take you years, but the exposure your child gets will be priceless.

Senders also suggests going one grade level above on reading.

For example, if your child is in 4th grade, ask the school for the 5th-grade reading list and read those books to them, so when they get them the following year, it is simply review for them.

And this is also why the Give a Child a Book campaign is so important to News 5 and our parent company, E.W. Scripps.

Just $5 can provide a book to a child to help them build their own at-home libraries. And the money donated in Northeast Ohio stays in Northeast Ohio.

You can learn more or donate by clicking here.