Wednesday, August 08, 2001

Early-reading program aims to pair health care, literacy

By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati Community Action Now on Tuesday unveiled its plan for an early childhood reading program in eight neighborhood health clinics.

        The national program, known as “Reach Out and Read,” blends early literacy with pediatric care. It will begin in September.

        Under Cincinnati's version, parents would get a book to take home and read to their children after each neighborhood clinic visit.

        Volunteers would also train them on how to encourage reading.

        The program, already available at some suburban health facilities, will open at clinics in Price Hill, Madisonville, Northside, Millvale, Elm Street, West End, Winton Hills and Lincoln Heights.

        Cincinnati CAN plans to raise funds to support the program at those sites.

        Commission co-chairman Ross Love said the program, which serves about 1.3 million children nationwide each year, helps young people develop a love for books and provides an incentive for parents to schedule regular health checkups.

        He estimated that about 10,000 books a year will be distributed in Cincinnati.

        “Parents of many children living in the urban core may lack the means to buy books or may not have access to good children's books or may not themselves have been read to as children,” Mr. Love said.

        “As a result, thousands of kids in Cincinnati are growing up without books. This program will enable us to get books into the hands of these children.”

        Cincinnati CAN was formed by Mayor Charlie Luken in May to help people in need, particularly in the African-American community.

        The reading program is the third initiative launched by the commission in the past two weeks.

        CAN leaders were instrumental last week in getting City Council to place a charter amendment on the November ballot that would remove key senior management positions from civil service protection.

        The task force also is designing a program of partnership between police and the black community to reduce violence in some neighborhoods.

        The program will be modeled after the Boston Ten-Point Coalition's plan for mobilizing black churches.

        “We said that August was going to be the period when we were going to start coming out with things and I think we have fulfilled that promise,” CAN spokesman Paul Bernish said.

        CAN's three co-chairmen — Mr. Love; the Rev. Damon Lynch III, leader of the Cincinnati Black United Front; and Tom Cody, a Federated Department Stores Inc. executive — submitted a 90-day progress report to Mr. Luken on Thursday.

        The report detailed the commission's accomplishments sinceJune, which include:

        • Appointment of Richard Friedman, assistant dean and special assistant to the president of the University of Cincinnati, as one of three executive directors.

        • Support of a proposed Hamilton County hospital levy intended to improve health-care access and service for people in need.

        • Receiving about $85,000 in donations toward the development of CAN's Web site.


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