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Sunday, October 20, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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An Open Book, An Eager Mind Want To Give Your Children A Jump-Start On Life? It’s Simple: Read To Them

It can take place in a grocery aisle, on a playground or even in a bathtub.

It goes like this:

Two children are playing. One is six months past his third birthday. The other is barely 2.

Suddenly, the older one grabs a toy from his sibling. “Mine,” he says.

As a parent, what is your reaction?

“Now, now, Junior,” you probably say. “You have to share with your sister.”

And what is Junior likely to do? Chances are good he’s not going to have a clue about what you’re saying.

Many children between ages 3 and 4 may like to play with others. They may like to build and paint things. They may even enjoy an extensive fantasy life.

But they simply aren’t good at sharing. That concept evolves later.

Pam Praegar knows that. As a teacher and dean of instruction at Spokane Falls Community College, Praeger for years has stressed the importance of early childhood development. Her primary interest has been in the field of literacy.

She wants everyone to know about Success By 6, the early-childhood literacy program that targets new mothers. Since Labor Day, special “Read to Me!” packets provided by Success By 6 have been provided to new mothers as they leave area hospitals.

“Studies have shown that there is a connection between how much a child is read to in their early years and their future school success,” Praeger says. The reading kit was designed to give new mothers “a boost, to give them an education about how important it is to read to your child even if the child is an infant,” she says.

Actually, the kit provides an education, period. Affiliated with United Way, but funded independently through a variety of organizations, Success by 6 is a national program that has become part of an local literacy drive.

In addition to a copy of Margaret Wise Brown’s classic children’s book “Goodnight Moon,” the kit includes a bib, a list of books and games, an overview of child development through the first six years and an indexed primer on parental concerns covering such topics as reading, self-esteem, physical development, math skills and more.

For example, the primer tells us, a typical child between the ages of 18 months and 3 years is learning language though hearing someone else read, seeing pictures and making associations between the two.

So what can parents do to help? The primer recommends that they buy books with stiff pages and lots of pictures, that they talk about the story and its characters, and that they read to their children every day. From the beginning.

“You can begin teaching your baby as soon as your infant is born,” Praeger says. “A baby loves sounds. The more words a baby hears during the first year, the easier it will be for that baby to learn language.”

Marilyn Thordarson, Sacred Heart Medical Center’s director of public relations, was on the committee that approved giving Success By 6 to new mothers. The hospital already has given out more than 200 reading kits, and more are on the way.

Thordarson thought the reading kit was one way to “reach a broad spectrum of women at a very important time, when they are particularly receptive to learning everything possible about their child’s development.”

Her concern is particularly with women to whom such information isn’t readily available.

“You know, many women aren’t able to purchase books on child development,” she says. “They may not have a support system at home. So this is one way that we can get some really important information in their hands.”

Alison Ruckhaber has access to such information. In fact, the 31-year-old mother of three has been a life-long reader.

“We were always encouraged to read,” she says. “Reading was always one of my favorite things to do.”

Even so, Ruckhaber was glad to receive a Success By 6 reading kit when her third child, Hayden, was born Sept. 19 at Sacred Heart.

It just confirmed what she already knew: namely, that she and her husband, Scott Phillips, were doing right by reading to their daughters as a regular part of their daily routine (Marina is 5-1/2, while Kendra is nearly 2).

“It’s something we look forward to,” she says. “We both work, so our time with the kids is limited. It’s that 15 or 20 minutes at night where I know that one of us will be sitting down with them and giving them one-on-one attention. It’s quality time that we spend with them.”

The reading ritual, she says, serves several functions at once. While allowing the family to bond, it settles the children down and even teaches them about independence.

“A lot of time if they’re not ready to go to sleep, they’ll carry a book into bed with them,” Ruckhaber says.

Ultimately, she recognizes that the lessons her children learn will carry them through life.

“There’s a lot to be said for creating a love of reading in our kids,” she says. “Because they may not only want to read books that are stories, books that are fun, but they may want to read newspapers and magazines, to gather information. It’s the first step toward teaching them to gather information in order to make intelligent decisions.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Staff illustration

MEMO: For information about Success By 6, call 838-6581.

For information about Success By 6, call 838-6581.

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