• 54°

‘Reading’ Raulerson to be honored

Corey Williams | The Brewton Standard Dr. Marsha Raulerson reads a story of Clifford the Big Red Dog to Kate Kelley, Presley Kelly and Mac Newby.

Corey Williams | The Brewton Standard
Dr. Marsha Raulerson reads a story of Clifford the Big Red Dog to Kate Kelley, Presley Kelly and Mac Newby.

While Reach Out and Read-Alabama celebrates 10 years of stories this summer, Dr. Marsha Raulerson is celebrating 20 years of providing books to her patients in Brewton.

The early literacy program launched its seventh-annual summer campaign in June that promotes families reading together. Copies of “How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Birthday?” by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague will be distributed along with other activities and events sponsored by Raulerson & Raulerson Physicians on Thursday, July 14, at 2 p.m. Rep. Alan Baker will be on hand to read to the children while emphasizing the importance of reading and sharing books together daily as part of healthy brain development.

Almost 45 percent of Escambia county’s children under the age of five live in poverty with the county ranking number 52 out of 67 counties in unemployment rate. Dr. Raulerson calls Reach Out and Read-Alabama her biggest poverty prevention program.

“Providing books to my patients and showing families how to use the book with their children has been shown to increase their reading readiness by almost six months,” Raulerson said. “The books they receive from me at each visit is integral to the literacy development of my patient population.”

In the last 10 years, pediatric healthcare providers have prescribed more than 1.6 million brand-new books to the state’s youngest and most underserved children. According to the Urban Child Institute, while there are more than a dozen books per child in middle-income neighborhoods, in low-income neighborhoods the ratio is closer to one book for every 300 children. About 27 percent of Alabama children live in households that earn $25,000 or less for a family of four, according to Voices for Alabama’s Children Kids Count Data Book 2015.

The Reach Out and Read evidence-based program builds on the unique relationship between parents and medical providers to develop critical early reading skills in children, beginning in infancy. As recommended by the AAP, Reach Out and Read incorporates early literacy into pediatric practice, equipping parents with tools and knowledge to ensure that their children are prepared to learn when they start school.

During regular, one-on-one visits with the doctor, families grow to understand the powerful and important role they play in supporting their children’s development.  Parents gain the confidence and skills that enable them to support early language and literacy at home.

Currently, 60 of Alabama’s pediatric practices and clinics serve as Reach Out and Read-Alabama program sites in 30 counties, which serve 40 percent of the state’s children under the age of five.