One of the highlights of our summer reading event throughout the state was the 20 year celebration of Dr. Marsha Raulerson's Reach Out and Read-Alabama program. Dr. Raulerson began her program in December of 1996 as the third pediatric practice in the nation to implement the nationwide program. During the last 20 years, Dr. Raulerson has prescribed over 50,000 brand new books to the children in her practice. She is now distributing books to the third generation of children that relies on her practice for medical care and literacy advice.
Almost 45 percent of Escambia county’s children under the age of five live in poverty with the county ranking number 52 out of 67 counties in the unemployment rate. Dr. Raulerson calls Reach Out and Read-Alabama her biggest poverty prevention program. “Providing books to my patients and showing families how to use the book with their children has been shown to increase their reading readiness by almost six months,” Raulerson said. “The books they receive from me at each visit is integral to the literacy development of my patient population.” According to the Urban Child Institute, while there are more than a dozen books per child in middle-income neighborhoods, in low-income neighborhoods the ratio is closer to one book for every 300 children.
At the recent celebration, the mayor's office presented Dr. Raulerson with a proclamation honoring her service to the community in the area of early childhood literacy while Representative Alan Baker, House District 66, read to the children present at the event. As an educator for twenty-seven years, Rep. Baker knows the importance of reading to children every day. "The families in the district that I serve do not have access to new, qualitybooks like other families across the state. Having a program like Reach Out and Read-Alabama here in Brewton gives our children the opportunity to be exposed to books from birth and have a chance to be successful in school and life," said Rep. Baker.