If a student is not reading on grade level by the time they leave third grade, they are likely to be at a substantial disadvantage for the rest of the their lives -- a situation which Goldsboro Pediatrics and United Health Care are working to avoid.
United Health Care donated $5,000 to Goldsboro Pediatrics Thursday to bolster the office's Reach Out and Read program. Through the program, Goldsboro Pediatrics will "prescribe" a free, age-appropriate book to children when they come in for routine visits.
To celebrate, children from the Head Start program visited Goldsboro Pediatrics, where they met Sen. Louis Pate, United Health Care director Corinna Miller and others, who read books to them.
Dr. David Tayloe, owner of Goldsboro Pediatrics, said the office has been running the Reach Out and Read program for around twenty years. The program was sparked by concerns over lagging reading scores in Wayne County Public Schools.
"I found out that over 50 percent of our kindergarten kids aren't ready to learn to read, and I found out even worse that over 50 percent of our fourth-graders who are starting out fourth grade aren't grade level in reading, and that really got my attention," he said. "So we started a community wide program, senator Pate actually helped me moderate the first open forum down at the Paramount down in 2014.
That countywide coalition -- READ Wayne -- consists of other organizations such as the Partnership for Children, the Wayne County Public Library, the United Way and others with the shared goal of promoting early childhood literacy throughout the county. Donna Phillips, director of the public library, has helped lead fundraising for Reach Out and Learn. So has the Reach Out and Learn program itself.
"This is just another example of how we find funding for this program, because someone has to buy these books," Tayloe said. "The state Reach Out and Read organization, actually it's North and South Carolina, they are constantly lobbying larger payers like the state, like United Health Care, like the Smart Start program to fund Reach Out and Read."
Carolyn Merrifield, Carolina programs director for Reach Out and Read, said this is something relatively unique to Wayne County.
"I think that's one of the great things about Wayne County, is that there are not a lot of places in North Carolina that have that community approach," she said. "There are lots of clinics that have Reach Out and Read, but taking that next step and convening with folks at the library and other community agencies to come together around this issue and realize that everyone has a role in fulfilling this, I think really elevates this and makes sure the entire community understands the importance of this."
With the $5,000 donation, Goldsboro Pediatrics purchased 2,000 books to give away, said Miller.
"We certainly understand the importance of early childhood literacy, as a result we partnered with Reach Out and Read, and we realized that there was a need at Goldsboro Pediatrics for additional books," she said. "It often times is difficult when you're running a practice to have that additional funding to purchase books, so we worked with them."