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Census Bureau Report Reveals Need to Increase Awareness on the Value of Reading to Infants and Toddlers

Washington, January 11, 2007—New figures on how often family members read to their children ages 1 to 5 underscore the importance of expanding early childhood literacy awareness among families and caregivers in lower income communities, said Carol H. Rasco, president and CEO of Reading Is Fundamental (RIF), the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit children and family literacy organization.

The U.S. Census Bureau report, A Child’s Day: 2003, reported that about 50 percent of children ages 1 to 5 were read to seven or more times in the previous week. However, among children living in families below the poverty line, only 41 percent of children ages 1 to 5 are read to that often. Additionally, some 16 percent of 1 to 2 year-olds and 11 percent of 3 to 5 year-old children living in poverty were not read to at all by family members during the previous week, about twice the rate of those children from higher income families. According to the Census Bureau, 3.4 million children under the age of five are living in poverty in the U.S.

"Research has demonstrated the importance of verbal interactions, such as reading, in the development of a child’s brain during the critical first three years of life," said Rasco. “We also know that when parents and caregivers are provided with literacy tools such as books, instruction and support, they are likely to read to their children more often. At RIF, we’re working to expand outreach to those children and families who most need access to books and literacy resources.”

RIF currently provides a number of literacy programs to support parents and caregivers of young children, particularly underserved children. Among these programs are:

Family of Readers—A program that provides training and motivational support to help parents or other family members become more active in their children’s literacy development.
Shared Beginnings—A program to give young parents the skills and self-confidence to nurture their children’s readiness to read. Parents and babies both receive books and participate in motivational activities.
Care to Read—A series of workshops RIF conducts to help train childcare staff to better support children’s emergent literacy.
Gateways to Early Literacy—A four-part video training series with print and web-based support materials that explores the critical ways family childcare providers can enrich and support children’s early language and literacy development.

RIF also provides a range of educational materials for children, parents and educators, both in English and Spanish, on its website: www.rif.org.

Reading Is Fundamental, Inc. (RIF), founded in 1966, motivates children to read by working with them, their parents, and community members to make reading a fun and beneficial part of everyday life. RIF’s highest priority is reaching underserved children from birth to age 8. Through community volunteers in every state and U.S. territory, RIF provides 4.6 million children with 15 million new, free books and literacy resources each year. For more information and to access reading resources, visit RIF’s website at www.rif.org.

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For more information, contact:
Layla Wright-Contreras,
Media Relations Manager

Census Bureau Report Reveals Need to Increase Awareness on the Value of Reading to Infants and Toddlers