Verde Valley Healthy Families/Parents as Teachers promote early literacy, celebrate Dr. Seuss at hospital

Mayor Diane Joens and Susan Lacher of Verde Valley Healthy Families help 18-month old Matthew Evans “fish for a book” at the Dr. Seuss family playgroup.

Mayor Diane Joens and Susan Lacher of Verde Valley Healthy Families help 18-month old Matthew Evans “fish for a book” at the Dr. Seuss family playgroup.

The world of Dr. Seuss came to life at Verde Valley Medical Center recently when the hospital's Verde Valley Healthy Families program joined forces with Parents as Teachers to host a family playgroup focused on early literacy.

About 90 percent of the brain develops in the first five years of life. During these years, one of the best ways to make sure kids have the skills they need to succeed in school is to read to them every day. So, to celebrate the birthday of beloved children's author Dr. Seuss, VVMC's event featured activities and decorations related to his most famous stories. Special guest Cottonwood Mayor Diane Joens attended to see the two programs in action.

Verde Valley Healthy Families is a free home visitation program for families with children ages five and under, and is a service of Verde Valley Medical Center. Parents as Teachers is a free home visitation program of Arizona's Children Association that also serves families with young children prenatally to age five. Both are funded by First Things First, the voter-created organization that works to make sure all Arizona children are healthy and ready for school. Through these programs, families receive visits every two weeks from a family support specialist, who partners with them to make sure their young children are healthy, growing and learning. Every month, the programs team up to organize a playgroup so their families can meet, learn and socialize.

"I like that these playgroups offer my son the chance to build his social skills," said Nici Campbell, mother of 17-month old Jaxson. "It's also helpful for parents to have the opportunity to meet and share ideas."

Erica Evans, who came to the playgroup with her 18-month old son Matthew, appreciated that the event was focused on early literacy. "I'm a fanatic reader," said Evans. Her son, she said, is becoming one too. "We read every night together," she said. "When he wants to read, Matthew already knows how to pull a book off the shelf and hand it to me."

Reading aloud to children builds critical skills such as focus, vocabulary, knowledge and critical thinking. By encouraging families to read to their young children as much as possible, Verde Valley Healthy Families and Parents as Teachers are working to support healthy, growing, imaginative, and school-ready minds.

For more information about Verde Valley Healthy Families, please contact Susan Lacher at (928) 639-6566. For more information about Parents as Teachers, a program of Arizona's Children Association, please contact Rainee Crabtree at (928) 443-1991 X 2021.

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