Raising Readers Celebrates 10 Years and 1.3 Million Books
Unique Program Provides Free Books to All Maine Children at Well-Child Visits
Governor Proclaims March "Raising Readers Month"
PORTLAND, Maine, March 3, 2010 - Does reading to babies make a difference in how they learn? Colleen Scholer, mother to three young children, thinks it does. Scholer's children are among the 166,000 Maine kids who have received books from Raising Readers, an innovative program that provides free books to all Maine children (birth to five years old) at well-child visits. In the first days after her son's birth, Scholer read him books he received from Raising Readers and was amazed by how alert he was, even pointing to pictures. When her son started kindergarten this year, his mom reports, he did very well at prereading skills such as learning letters and sounds, which she credits to her reading to him every day.
Now in its 10th year, Raising Readers has distributed more than 1.3 million books to more than 166,000 Maine children at well-child visits with healthcare providers. As part of the program, physicians and nurses discuss the importance of regular reading with parents and family members during checkups. In honor of the program's achievement, Maine Governor John Baldacci proclaimed March "Raising Readers Month."
Every baby born in Maine receives a bag of new, high-quality books before leaving the hospital, along with reading tips designed to help new parents. At each annual checkup, children receive a beautiful hardcover book - many by Maine authors and illustrators - that has been specially selected by a committee of child development and literacy experts. By the time a child "graduates" from Raising Readers at age 5, he or she has a library of 12 books.
"For many Maine families, Raising Readers books are the only books in the home," said Deborah Deatrick, MPH, vice president of community health at MaineHealth. "Studies show that reading aloud to a child from birth helps the child learn the early literacy skills he needs to be 'ready to learn' when entering kindergarten," continued Deatrick, adding, "Raising Readers helps ensure that all Maine children are exposed to high-quality, developmentally appropriate books from the time they are born."
Raising Readers is the largest program of its kind anywhere, thanks to the enthusiastic participation of 329 health centers, 29 hospitals and six birthing centers across all 16 Maine counties. Starting with a few hundred children in Cumberland and Penobscot counties in 2000, Raising Readers has grown to serve more than 70,000 children every year. The program's results are impressive: almost two-thirds of healthcare providers report that Raising Readers has increased how frequently they counsel parents about reading; 75 percent report an increase in parents reading aloud because of Raising Readers books. Additionally, Maine has the second highest rate among the 50 states of parents reporting that they read aloud to their child daily, and a recent national survey showed marked improvements in "learning readiness" scores of Maine children.
The latest national survey of literacy in the U.S. showed that nearly 90 million adults lack the ability to use the healthcare system effectively, resulting in billions of dollars of unnecessary costs. Programs like Raising Readers, which work to build reading and literacy skills from the earliest stages of development, can help prevent these problems. "If we can give our Maine children that excitement and wonder to find out what's in a book, it may be the most important gift they'll ever receive," said Dr. Patricia Nobel, a pediatrician in Lincoln, Maine. "If they learn to love to read, that love will not only give them many hours of pleasure, but will unlock the doors to a life of learning."
Raising Readers is an ambitious effort conceived by the Libra Foundation to foster a love of reading, improve literacy among babies and young children, and ultimately, improve the health and educational outcomes of Maine children. MaineHealth, EMHS and the Barbara Bush Children's Hospital at Maine Medical Center and EMHS collaborate to make the program possible. For more information, visit Raising Readers at www.raisingreaders.org.
MaineHealth is a not-for-profit family of leading high-quality providers and other healthcare organizations working together so their communities are the healthiest in America. Ranked among the nation's top 100 integrated delivery networks, MaineHealth includes the following member organizations: Maine Medical Center, Miles Memorial Hospital, LincolnHealth – St. Andrews Campus & Healthcare Center, Southern Maine Medical Center, Stephens Memorial Hospital, Waldo County General Hospital, Spring Harbor Hospital, HomeHealth Visiting Nurses, Maine Physician Hospital Organization, NorDx and Synernet. Affiliates of MaineHealth include MaineGeneral Medical Center, Mid Coast Hospital, St. Mary's Regional Medical Center and Penobscot Bay Medical Center.
Contact: Diane Skog
Director, Raising Readers