Waiting rooms become reading rooms
May 09, 2011 (Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- WATERLOO, Iowa -- More than a third of American children entering kindergarten lack basic language skills needed to learn to read.
To combat the problem, Iowa Public Television and Reach Out and Read Iowa are offering a Raising Readers Learning Center in the waiting rooms. One of more than 40 across the state will be in the Northeast Iowa Family Practice Center in Waterloo.
"We know kids are going to watch TV and play video games. Let's give them something educational," IPTV's Trista Peitzman said.
The learning centers are part of a national literacy campaign and the Ready to Learn initiative, which focuses on building skills at home, school and in the community. Following something called the Literacy 360 approach, children are surrounded with opportunities to read and to engage parents.
Members of the organizations met Wednesday to discuss ways the program enhances literacy skills for children during doctor visits.
The learning centers feature a cart of age-appropriate materials including books, activity sheets, toys, puzzles and more.
"If they can read, everything else should fall into place," nurse manager Heather Stech said.
IPTV supplies a flat-screen television and DVD player dedicated to its programming for children. The network also airs "Healthy Minutes," which shows videos on eating healthy, washing hands and other skills.
In addition, doctors supply books for children from 6 months to 5 years old to take home after each well-child visit. Parents are encouraged to read the books aloud and, in the process, introduce words to the youngster's vocabulary.
The program emphasizes assistance for children growing up in low-income households. Studies on language development show kids from that environment hear as many as 30,000 fewer words than more affluent peers before the age of 3, according to Peitzman. And 61 percent of children in low-income families have no age-appropriate books in their homes.
The Northeast Iowa Family Practice Center has six doctors serving in rotation.
"We choose to do this because we are a residency program. We can educate them to educate," Stech said.
Children 2 to 8 years old reportedly spend up to 32 hours in front of a TV on average each week. The time includes hours spend playing video games.
"Part of our message is turn off the TV, get exercise, read a good book. What a great fit to help TV be more educational," Peitzman said.
"Video itself is not bad. You've got to have the balance. We need to give these kids every benefit we can," she added.
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