This should not be a difficult task but apparently it is for some. If you want your children to be successful in life, as students and adults, grab a book and read to them when they are very young. Be a teacher by simply reading to them. Teach them language by reading to them.
You'll be giving your toddlers and pre-kindergarten children a distinct advantage for the rest of their lives. This is not rocket science. This is indisputable truth confirmed by numerous studies.
Florida Secretary of Agriculture Adam Putnam put an emphatic stamp on a societal dilemma vexing communities everywhere -- that hungry children are impaired in their education just from the lack of food. His message last week in Palmetto resonates on an essential element of a Manatee-Sarasota strategy to improve the lifelong career prospects of children struggling with mastering a simple and basic skill -- as repeatedly stated here, reading.
The Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, a Manatee-Sarasota county endeavor with dozens of community organizations involved, should inspire everyday citizens to join -- even anonymously, just as a parent who loves their children. All it takes is a commitment to be a role model to a child, by simply reading for a few minutes every night at bedtime, for instance. The Grade-Level Reading campaign is a national movement because of its significance to future generations, and the nation's future.
The payoff for the simple task of reading -- even more than endearing yourself to your child -- is this: Education literature indicates that third grade is the critical time for students to move from "learning to read" to "reading to learn." That gives children stronger comprehensive skills and the ability to master more complex material, thus putting them on a pathway toward achievement throughout their lives.
That cannot be overstated enough. Third grade success is vital.
That's the point of the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. That's the point that Putnam stressed in his message to an audience of some 200 people at the Bradenton Area Convention Center for the Third Annual Hunger Relief Forum.
Hungry children are handicapped in school. As Putnam stated, a malnourished child who does not learn to read, write, understand math and communicate by the third grade will earn less throughout their lives than their better educated peers. And they are likely to perpetuate that unhealthy access to food as a parent, as Putnam cited.
"Education is the key to all of this," he told the crowd. "If you are not proficient as a third-grader, you will struggle. Everything builds on what you learn by the third grade."
Furthermore, he stated, "A child's positive performance in school is diminished without healthy food." And, he said, "We have to invest in early education."
That truth-telling is at the heart of this year's fundraising campaign by the United Way of Manatee County, which this year is dedicated to the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. One of the United Way board members put the matter succintly during the July kickoff event for the campaign:
"We have to invest in our children," Neil Phillips of the Visible Men Academy said then. "By we, I mean all of us."
That is wise advice and a call to arms.
Want to be a part of the solution? Check out www.gradelevelreadingsuncoast.net or donate to www.uwmc.net.