MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
Several young children sat in miniature chairs around a table listening excitedly to stories, told of mouse adventures as in the United States government.
U.S. Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-N.C.) visited Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune’s Pediatric Clinic to read a few books to a small group of children as part of the Reach Out and Read program, Aug. 4.
The Reach Out and Read program is a national, non-profit organization, which began in 1989. The program was started by the Boston City Hospital, currently known as the Boston Medical Center. Pediatricians, family physicians, nurses and early childhood educators with the center, joined together to promote early literacy to parents and children.
“Reach Out and Read was originally based on a simple but powerful premise: encourage parents to read regularly to their children and give them the tools, books to do so,” as stated by the Reach Out and Read Web site.
The Web site also mentioned the National Defense Appropriations Act of 2007, which provides funding for the implementation of a pilot project on pediatric early literacy at 20 military health care facilities in the U.S. and overseas, laying the foundation to one day reach all military families with young children.
The program targets children ages 6 months to 5 years old. The pediatric primary care provider gives a new age and development-appropriate children’s book to the child at their pediatric checkups for them to keep and take home with them. Then the care provider encourages parents to read aloud to their young children at home.
“Early language skills are essential for the healthy development of young children,” as stated by the Web site. “ROR presents a unique opportunity to support and strengthen military families with young children by helping parents to understand the developmental stages, build routines, which reassure children and develop skills and knowledge that are essential for families being tested by separation and deployment.”
Reading aloud to children is a proven technique to help them cope with stress and anxiety, whether it is because of natural disaster, separation from a parent or another difficult situation.
Since the program was implemented in military health care facilities, 32 bases offer the program with more than 90,000 children of military families participating. Annually, there are more than 180,000 new and developmentally-appropriate books distributed to children on military bases.
Nationwide, there are more than 4,535 ROR programs serving more than 3.8 million children annually. More than 6 million books are given away to families each year.
“Children are a gift from God,” said Jones. “You never know which of them will be the next president. It’s important for families to take the time and read to their children. This is a wonderful and critical program that tries to inspire families to get their children to read.”
The congressman said the reason he visits military bases is because all children are important, and children who live on a military base live in a ‘different world.’
“My heart aches for the military families because they are under so much pressure with deployments and separation,” said Jones. “Reading to children helps military families to cope with these difficult times.”
The Naval Hospital aboard Camp Lejeune has been handing out books to families and their children since December 2008. For more information about the ROR program, visit the Web site at reachoutandread.org.
“We love the program, and parents and kids love it too,” said Navy Lt. Jorge Martinez, a division officer with the pediatric clinic, Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune. “It’s helpful not only as a developmental tool and in improving literacy, but it also helps children deal and cope with deployments. In the month of July we gave out 215 books alone.”