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Reading resolution: Mainers urged to turn pages with kids in the new year

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Reading resolution: Mainers urged to turn pages with kids in the new year

PORTLAND — Among the age-old promises to eat healthier foods, exercise or abandon bad habits this New Year, a Maine organization is offering four new resolutions to consider in 2014.

Raising Readers – a nonprofit group that provides free books to all young children in Maine – is asking parents to read aloud to their children every day; become reading role models; visit the library more often, and keep books in their vehicles.

The initiative was launched Jan. 3 at Barbara Bush Children's Hospital, to an audience of pint-sized patients and their parents. The event began with a short presentation by Dr. Brian Youth, a clinical adviser for Raising Readers and medical director of the Newborn Nursery at BBCH.

Reading aloud helps young brains develop, Youth said, and reading for 20 minutes a day is proven to raise kindergarten reading scores.

"Ninety percent of the structure or the brain is developed by the time a child is 3 years old. In addition to that, there's about 700 neuron connections that are formed in the brain every second," he said. "Reading to kids helps make all those connections."

Raising Readers was launched in 2000 with a mission of providing free books to children from birth to age 5 during well-child exams. Since then, the group has given out 2 million books through every pediatric health care provider in Maine, Raising Readers Director Cassandra Grantham said.

The four New Year's resolutions are meant to foster lifelong reading. In addition to reading aloud to children each day, parents should provide an example to children by conspicuously reading books, newspapers or magazines for themselves. But that reading shouldn't necessarily include tablets, phones or computer screens.

"We try to encourage people as much as possible to be reading print," Grantham said. "Screens serve a purpose. They're an important part of our lives. But as much as possible, reading the printed word is going to give kids more bang for their buck: newspapers, books, magazines or even lists."

Keeping books in vehicles will allow children to occupy their minds while on the go or stuck in traffic. Visiting libraries more often also encourages lifelong reading, she said.

Melanie Janosco, a mother of two and a registered nurse at Maine Medical Center, attended the event with her infant daughter. She signed a pledge to follow all four resolutions in 2014, saying she sees the benefits of reading from two perspectives.

"I really enjoy the Raising Readers program as a mom," Janosco said, "and as a nurse."

Ben McCanna can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or bmccanna@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @BenMcCanna.