ReadingKnowing the benefits of reading early and often to young children, I and State Representative Lynn Wardlow hosted the 6th Annual bi-partisan Early Childhood Read-a-Thon at the State Capitol April 16th. The annual event brings together legislators from both parties of the Minnesota House and Senate to read to area pre-school students.

Lynn WardlowI still cherish the times I spent reading to my own children when they were young. Not only did reading together become our special time, it helped lay a strong foundation for their academic success when they entered school.

This annual event includes a special appearance by the Cat and the Hat, who spent time with the youngsters from several St. Paul early childhood programs. Volunteers from the Minnesota Children’s Museum, Hennepin County Medical Center and Lerner Books were on hand with games and activities for the children, and to provide early literacy resources for parents. When asked about his support for the event Representative Wardlow, a retired teacher said, “We can’t underestimate the importance of giving children a good start. This event reinforces that it’s never too early to start helping children get ready for school.”

The bi-partisan Minnesota Legislative Early Childhood Caucus sponsored the Read-a-Thon. Co-chaired by Representative Sandra Peterson, Representative Lynn Wardlow, Senator Geoff Michel and Senator Tarryl Clark, the event is in its sixth year. It was conceived and implemented by State Representative Jim Davnie from Minneapolis and a teacher.

“It’s rewarding to see my colleagues on both sides of the aisle support this event,” said Rep. Nora Slawik, Chair of the Early Childhood Committee. “We all enjoy taking a break from the regular pace of the session, and we’re inspired by the excitement the children show. They remind us about why we’re so committed to making sure Minnesota’s youngest learners are prepared for academic success.”

After suffering budget cuts in 2003 as a result of the state’s budget deficit, the 2007 Legislature passed my bill to restore funding for many early childhood programs, including Head Start, ECFE and School Readiness programs.

The best return we get as a state comes from the investments we make in quality early childhood programs. Minnesota’s success has always been our strong commitment to providing every child with a quality education, and that commitment must include sustained support for early childhood.

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