If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, what might a daily dose of reading prevent?
According to Carol Grier, Executive Director of the Cleveland non-profit Daily Dose of Reading (DDR), engaging children with books and literacy skills can prevent poor academic outcomes– both in the immediate and the distant future.
Daily Dose of Reading works to improve literacy in children by empowering families through reading and language with two signature programs: Prescriptions for Reading and Play & Learn.
Prescriptions for Reading, the original signature program of DDR, was founded by Dr. Shelly Senders in 1999. Senders created ‘prescriptions’ for parents to take from each doctor visit during a child’s developmental years — providing them with not only book suggestions appropriate for their child’s age level, but also activities and literacy-based skills to practice at home.
In the past 21 years, DDR has since expanded to in-school programming for students between 6 weeks and 5 years of age through Play & Learn.
Play & Learn is unlike any other classroom lesson. DDR staff hosts read aloud programs with interactive activities that include play, dance, and song. Each child in the participating classroom then gets to take one of the books from the day’s lesson home with a literacy guide for that specific book, allowing parents an opportunity to engage in literacy-based skills with their child at home.
Through the Play & Learn program, students take home about 10 books for their at-home library each year.
“Your parents are your first teachers,” says Grier. “When we enable parents to ask targeted questions about a book and to follow up those questions with fun activities at home, we are empowering them to teach their children outside of a school or classroom setting.”
Currently, DDR serves approximately 730 children from eight educational sites, including Head Start programs and Cleveland Metropolitan Schools.
Grier, who came to the organization from a background in teaching, says that DDR gives students in marginalized communities a chance to develop skills that allow them to be ready for kindergarten, as well as skills that will set them up for a successful life.
With literacy being used as a key testing component for kindergarten readiness, it’s crucial that parents are empowered to encourage literacy skills in their children, and DDR helps them do just that.
“We are really trying to build literacy skills from birth. Books really do just open you up to a whole new world,” says Grier. “By giving kids the opportunity to enjoy and interact with these books and have books in their homes, we’re really giving kids a chance to learn from experiences in the world.”
Besides helping with literacy skills, DDR programs create opportunities for parents and children to bond. “Books just connect you,” says Grier. “Having that 20 minutes a day of reading is so important, not only for literacy — but just for time with your child. It’s such an important time, a sweet time, and a time that some parents underestimate the importance of.”
The program’s outcomes are promising. Students who struggled to meet standards in language comprehension, identifying letters, and following language often meet or exceed those standards after DDR program participation.
Research from Stanford University shows that by 3 years of age, a 30-million word gap exists between children from the wealthiest and poorest families. To help close that gap, a Daily Dose of Reading promotes a lifelong relationship with reading and literacy.
It’s just what the doctor ordered.
To learn more about the organization or to make a donation, visit Daily Dose of Reading.