AKRON, Ohio — Educators throughout Ohio are working to make sure kids are Kindergarten-ready, especially in lower-income areas, and an Akron Children’s Hospital program aims to do that through reading.
Dr. Sarah Adams has been a pediatrician with Akron Children’s Hospital for decades.
“I see newborns all the way through 21 years of age,” she said.
When those patients need it, she recommends medication, vaccines, or just checks up on their overall health. But, no matter what, she always prescribes a book.
“Reading helps establish that early literacy, it helps establish brain and language development, but it also helps establish a bond between parents. We want them to build a routine around reading,” she said.
Akron Children’s Hospital is a part of the ‘Reach Out and Read’ program. It has given out thousands of books to children throughout Summit County. Through donations, books line shelves in exam and waiting rooms throughout multiple pediatric offices.
Leaders at the hospital say it’s important, because 95% of the brain is developed by 5 years old, so a love for reading should be established early on.
Dr. Adams says reading is more than just language development.
“I like to see fine motor skills, so, how do they hold the book, how do they turn the pages, can they point to something in the book and explain a little bit about it,” said Adams.
She says one in three kids aren’t ready for kindergarten and the lack of readiness can be worse in lower income areas. The program tries to bridge the gap.
“55% of the children we serve are on Medicaid,” said Meghan Hawkins, the ‘Reach Out and Read’ coordinator for Akron Children’s Hospital. “Children who come from more affluent homes will hear 30 million more words than children who come from less affluent."
Hawkins said≥ a positive outcome will be a lot more likely if parents can take any amount of time to just pick up a book and put down the devices.
“The experience that they get when their parents and caregivers are reading that book is something much better than they’re getting from those screens or iPads,” she said.
Adams says it’s best to make reading a part of a child’s bedtime routine, and routine is especially important during the summer months, because kids lose about one-third of what they learn during the school year.