Editorial: Spreading the word … about reading

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 16, 2009

Salisbury and Rowan County officials planted precious seeds Wednesday with the first Read to Your Child Day at Rowan Public Library ó seeds of enthusiasm for reading.
Let’s hope they take root.
There was plenty at the event to excite even non-readers at Read to Your Child Day ó an opportunity to meet McGruff, the crime-fighting dog; to explore a police car and firetruck; and to win a Wii game.
But the 700 or so children and adults in attendance surely realized that this was really all about reading. By showing a library card or registering for one, each child received a new book. The event was at the library ó Reading Central, you might call it ó which also sponsors programs for young readers. And some pretty important adults read stories to the children, including Mayor Susan Kluttz and County Commission Chairman Carl Ford. If the kids didn’t catch the significance of that, surely some of the adults did and realized that improving reading is a top, top priority.
This session grew out of City Council’s concern over low reading levels in public schools, a concern heightened by a consultant’s report in February. Dr. Suzanne Morse, president of the Pew Partnership for Civic Change and author of the book “Smart Communities,” said low test scores among young students are not really a school problem but a community issue that has come to school.
Council members could have said the matter was out of their hands, since the merged school system comes under the county commission’s purview, and left it at that. But they didn’t. When city and county officials met together in the spring, they agreed to work together on this initiative outside the classroom, as Morse suggested.
After all, what happens beyond school in a child’s life has a powerful influence over how well he or she will do in school. Like a seed without sunshine or water, a child lacking some of life’s essentials may not reach his potential. For children, that includes not only food and shelter, but also positive attention and guidance from parents, caring relationships, a peaceful home life ó even access to reading materials.
Encouraging parents to bring their children to the library and read with them at home was a good move for city and county. You might assume parents are already getting that message from other sources, but assuming is often a mistake. This is a message worth hearing over and over, and it will be repeated in other sessions around the county.
Read to your child. Read to your child. Read to your child. The harvest will be great.