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San Diego County offers health through literacy this summer

As parents do their best to keep their children safe from COVID-19, San Diego County is now also offering them resources for better health through literacy. KPBS Education Reporter M.G. Perez explains

As parents do their best to keep their children safe from COVID-19, San Diego County is now offering them resources for better health through literacy.

The county marked the first day of summer Tuesday by launching its Hooray for Reading program. The program includes a website and free resources designed to improve children’s health through reading.

Medical data shows a child’s brain is 90% developed by the age of 5.

Dr. Kelly Motadel, San Diego County's Child Health Officer, said, “Pediatricians have known for a long time how important reading is to the development of the brain. We want kids to be invested in reading. Reading from a young age helps them seek more information. It helps develop a quest for knowledge and so throughout their lives we want them to have that experience.”

MOM READING TO KIDS.jpg
Matthew Bowler
Juanita Garcia with her sons Abraham, 7, Samuel, 5, and their friend Luke Simon, 10 sit and read books at the Bonita-Sunnyside Library, Bonita, June 21, 2022.

Hooray for Reading is supported by the county’s 33 libraries and First 5 San Diego, an organization committed to promoting the health and well-being of young children.

Alethea Arguilez is the executive director of First 5 San Diego. She told KPBS News, “We want to really nurture the passion for early literacy and reading because that really is the foundation for future academic success and ... life success.”

Literacy is not limited to a library building. A year ago at the height of the pandemic, the county made an investment in Little Free Library, which can be found in many neighborhoods.

There are 40 of them scattered from North County to South Bay. By next summer, that number will jump to 100.

Books cost money — frankly — and these are free to take,” said Migell Acosta, Director of the San Diego County Library. “The idea is you take one and leave one when you’re done reading it. But if some end up in people’s home libraries, that’s good for kids, so that’s fine, too.”