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Dr. Suess's Birthday

A Reminder to Read

March 5, 2009
Sneator Tom Harkin

March 2 is Dr. Seuss's Birthday, the author and illustrator who published more than 60 books, many of them children's books. Dr. Seuss's books are full of stories that help children unlock the potential of their imagination and creativity.

They can also help inspire a love of reading that makes any child's experiences in school much more positive.

In celebrating the great work of all authors and illustrators of children's books, I encourage Iowans to take time out of their schedule this week to read to a child. No matter if it is your favorite children's story or another childhood classic, just read with a child.

For many years I have been active in "Everybody Wins!", a terrific volunteer program that matches elementary school students and adults for one-on-one reading during the lunch hour. I look forward to my reading date every week for a lot of reasons, but mostly because it is a great opportunity to have a real impact on a young person.

Reading to kids is more important today than ever before. Research now indicates that kids 4 to 6 years old are in the sweet spot to develop reading skills. Beyond the age of 6 or 7, teaching a child to read becomes a game of catch up. And we all know that the quality of the reader translates into the quality of the student.

In addition to what we can do on a personal level, I believe that we have a collective responsibility to ensure kids have the reading skills they need to succeed.

As Chairman of the Senate panel that funds education initiatives, I have been a big supporter of programs that help develop good readers. In particular, the "Striving Readers" program, aims to improve the reading skills of middle school- and high school-aged students who are currently reading below their grade level. For the younger students, I have been a supporter of "Early Reading First" Program. This program supports early child centers that focus on the development of early language, cognitive, and pre-reading skills, which prepare children for continued school success and that serve primarily children from low-income families.

By taking some time to read to a child, you open doors that otherwise might be closed in their life. Whether by inspiring a child's imagination, enriching their creativity, or instilling a renewed sense of excitement about the educational process, reading helps children become successful students equipped with the tools they will need as they enter the workforce.

By making sure all of our students are prepared for a 21st Century economy, we secure a bright future for our children and for cities and towns all over Iowa.



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