Published 12:00 am Friday, May 18, 2012

Smart Start Rowan
They arrive at the school library, bringing box after box of colorful children’s books. “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.” “Green Eggs and Ham.” “I Love Trains!” The Beta Club of Sacred Heart School has collected more than 1,600 books, which will go to children in this county who don’t have books of their own.
The program is Smart Start Rowan’s Reach Out and Read Program, and besides training physicians on how to use books as part of their developmental screenings, the physician educates the families on the importance of reading aloud to children. Children ages birth to 5 get to take a new book home with them at well-child checkups. Book drives are a way to expand the program further and place books in the waiting rooms of local physicians’ offices and also for older siblings to have. Lisa Edwards serves as program coordinator. She had already forged a relationship with physicians through the Smart Start Rowan ABCD Program, which assists physicians with developmental and behavioral screenings in young children.
Edwards is also a Sacred Heart parent, and the school’s 60-plus Beta Club members jumped at the opportunity to donate books. Eighth-grader Chloe Burks is Beta Club president.
“It saddens me that other children don’t have books,” she said. “Books are a big part of children’s lives. Books can take them to places by just sitting in their homes.”
Principal Frank Cardelle certainly appreciated this particular service project. He is the father of seven.
“We have tons of books all over the place at home,” he said.
Upon finding “No, David!” in a box, fifth-grader James Metz said it was one of his favorite books ever. The fifth grade led the school in collecting more than 200 books.
“I remember that when I was a kid, I loved reading books,” said Spencer Blackwell. “I used my imagination to put myself in the story. I knew there were people out there who couldn’t get books, and I’d love to give them something they didn’t have, and books I’ve outgrown.”
Classmate Carsyn Parrott agreed.
“At my old school, we would do reading buddies, and there were kids who didn’t know really easy words,” she said. “I wanted to do something to help. It’s just nice to give books.”
Carsyn loves to read, and one of her favorite books is “The Robot.” She happily shared the plot.
The more books Edwards saw come into the library, the bigger her smile became.
“Everything in the Reach Out and Read program ties in with all areas of a child’s development,” Edwards said. “The physicians have been very receptive to this program. Books are a great tool for doctors. A child’s face just lights up when they have a book, and children are less apprehensive in the doctor’s office when they are handed a book.
“The best part of the program is that it is not just about children taking a book home, it also educates families on the importance of reading aloud to children for their brain development and for their language growth.”
The school collected enough books to fill up waiting room book shelves in five medical practices that serve children and even collected books for siblings, too. Participating practices included in the Reach Out and Read pilot grant were the Rowan County Health Department, Farrington Family Medical Center, Salisbury Medical Clinic and Cleveland Pediatrics.
Edwards also works with Salisbury Pediatrics, which is not eligible for the pilot grant because it had worked with Reach Out and Read in the past. But Salisbury Pediatrics is getting donated books as well and will work with Reach Out and Read to start up the program again.
By partnering with local physicians, Edwards explained, Smart Start Rowan is able to reach the most children possible in Rowan County — more than 85 percent of the population ages birth to 5.
“It’s a prescription to read,” she noted.