To: US Dept of Education - Forget the Celebrities: Support Libraries & Programs Such as Read Out and Read
The US Department of Education wants to "increase awareness of the critical importance of summer learning and encourage all adults to read to children" by having a retired basketball star and Miss America 2011 read to children on July 6. To paraphrase Susan Ohanian, this is like giving out menus to starving people: Urging parents to read aloud is useless when parents don't have books.
Take a look at the condition of public libraries, a major source of books for families living in poverty. Funding for public and school has been cut continuously over the last few years, while billions will be spent on new tests that have no research support.
Take a look at what Reach Out and Read has been doing over the last several decades: Pediatricians and clinic staff tell parents in high poverty families about reading aloud, demonstrate it, and give them free books on well-child visits. In other words, they make read-alouds possible. Studies show that children in Reach Out and Read families are read to more than comparison children and make substantial progress in vocabulary development.
Forget the celebrities. Do the obvious, the simple, the inexpensive. The research support for libraries and read alouds is extensive and solid.
Recommended reading: Jim Trelease, the Read-Aloud Handbook.
US Dept of Ed announcement: