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As a young resident at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia, Dr. Kristen Kucharczuk came to realize that something as seemingly simple as knowing how to read could really come in handy. At the time, Kucharczuk and other young doctors were introduced to Reach Out and Read (ROR), a nationwide initiative that makes literacy promotion a standard facet of pediatric primary care by teaching doctors and nurses how to effectively encourage early reading skills in children, regardless of socio-economic background. ROR distributes about 66,000 new books a year, impacting as many as 35,000 children.

Statistics show that children in professional families hear an average of 2,150 words per hour, while those in families receiving public assistance are exposed to only 620. Being a parent, Kucharczuk already knew the advantages of getting kids excited about books. “It was great to watch the kids come to the office anticipating what new book they’d take home,” she says. “Reading is something most of us take for granted, but when parents are not confident in their skills, they’re reluctant to read aloud to their children. But the reality is that, by sitting down and looking at a book together, parents are empowering their children and creating a model of how to read to them. Even if a parent is simply pointing to a duck and asking what the duck says, the child is learning to connect sounds with pictures and, ideally, words on the page.”

On Oct. 12 from 1 to 4 p.m, Kucharczuk and a crew of volunteers will host Read and Romp 2008, an adventure-filled afternoon for young readers and their families, at the Baldwin School in Bryn Mawr. For details, visit reachoutandreadphilly.org or call Kirsten Rogers at (215) 590-5989.
 

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