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United Way summer reading program to begin Saturday
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Read Learn Succeed summer reading program kickoff

When: 9:30-11:30 a.m. Saturday

Where: Wilshire Trails Park, 849 Wilshire Road, Gainesville

How much: Free

More info: Call 770-536-1121 or go to www.unitedwayhallcounty.org

There’s a simple but essential way for parents to ensure the success of their children, according to the United Way.

All parents have to do is read to their children daily.

“Research has shown that it’s critical for children to be read to from birth, really, on up,” said Ruth Demby with the United Way of Hall County’s Read Learn Succeed program. “We’re finding there are a lot of children that don’t have books in their homes, and parents either aren’t taking the time or they don’t know how important it is to read to their children.”

The Read Learn Succeed program is a United Way initiative to educate parents and get books into children’s hands. It will kick off from 9:30-11:30 a.m. Saturday at Wilshire Trails Park, 849 Wilshire Road in Gainesville.

Children who don’t have books in their homes are often put at a lifelong disadvantage, Demby said.

“Even though I grew up being read to as a child and reading to my children, I just assumed the kids who were behind would get extra help and then catch up,” Demby said. “But research shows only a small fraction of kids are able to catch up if they haven’t been exposed to reading from books and enriched verbal interaction.”

Missing these interactions limits a child’s word count, or number of words a child can comprehend, Demby said. She added that children who have these enriching experiences daily have a greater brain capacity.

“Based on this knowledge, United Way has really begun concentrating on helping educate all of us in Hall County,” she said. “What happens if we don’t help parents get these critical skills and don’t get books in their hands, then we really spend billions of dollars eventually trying to catch these children up.”

The kickoff Saturday is free to attend and open to the public, especially families of small children. The first 400 children ages 5 and younger in attendance who register for the summer reading program will receive a free book.

The event includes games, art activities and a reading trail for all ages. Information will be provided to parents about where to access free books and reading events throughout the summer

In the case of rain, the event will be held at the Hall County Library, 127 Main St. in Gainesville. The library is partnering with the United Way for this event.

The theme this year is “Recreation and Wellness,” and Brenau University occupational therapy students will be on scene with healthy games for kids, while a pediatrician, Dr. Curtis Malcom from the Center for Pediatrics at The Longstreet Clinic, will also be available.

“In addition to being a wonderful pediatrician who is passionate about this subject, he rides a unicycle and juggles,” Demby said. “So he’ll be doing that while talking with children and parents.”

Demby said she would love for many people with younger children to come out and bring their older siblings as well.

“It’s just a lovely way for families to spend the morning and experience the joy of reading and getting away from the television and computer games,” she said. “Last year, the people who experienced it had a great time.”

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