Pediatrician to speak about importance of early literacy

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Anna Marie Lux
August 14, 2015

BELOIT--A pediatrician who promotes the importance of early literacy is returning to Rock County.

Dipesh Navsaria spoke in Janesville last year to parents and other advocates of young children about the importance of reading daily to preschool children.

He believes the simple act can dramatically improve the outcome of their lives.

Rock County Advocates for Young Children, a coalition of early childhood care providers, is sponsoring the free workshop with Navsaria in Beloit on Thursday, Aug. 27. The group encourages civic leaders, parents and others to attend.

People should register by Monday, Aug. 17, because space is limited.

In an interview last year, Navsaria of Madison suggested that reading aloud to children should begin at birth or at least by 6 months to help set the stage for later learning.

Navsaria believes that doctors should partner with parents to promote healthy development of children's brains as well as their bodies. He carries out his belief as medical director of Reach Out and Read Wisconsin. The program arms families with books and knowledge about the importance of reading to children.

The Arrowhead Library System, comprising all Rock County public libraries, works with other county agencies and groups to promote early literacy.

“Rock County children, particularly those in Janesville and Beloit, have low school-readiness scores, something that affects their ability to learn for the rest of their lives,” said Sharon Grover, head of youth services with the Hedberg Public Library.

From a literacy viewpoint, low-school readiness includes low vocabularies and unfamiliarity with books.

“If you have a community of people who can't read, the community's productivity and economics will not be strong,” Grover said. “The world is changing. The ability to find good-paying jobs that do not require strong literacy skills is shrinking.”

Grover cited statistics that show why early literacy is important:

-- The majority of children who lack basic early literacy skills when they start kindergarten do not catch up. The national Adult Literacy Survey found that children who have not already developed some basic literacy practices when they enter school are three to four times more likely to drop out in later years.

-- The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University reports that more than 80 percent of children who have difficulty reading in kindergarten will still have difficulty when they get to third grade.

“We know what our needs are.” Grover said, “Now we have to identify our strengths to produce change. Promoting literacy is everyone's responsibility because that is what promotes a strong community.”

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