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Rx for Reading

September 13, 2016

The 1-2-3 Read program bookmark.

Little brains grow fast, and books help them grow healthy.

In fact, 90% of brain development occurs between birth and age 5. Reading together in those first five years actually improves brain function.

A recent MRI study of 3- to 5-year-olds looked at the relationship between shared parent-child reading and brain activity. Children went through an MRI scan while listening to stories. The scans showed that frequent reading and a variety of books spark more activity in the left side areas of the brain that process words and form meaning. (Source: American Academy of Pediatrics)

The way parents and kids read together affects the brain, too.

That’s the idea behind “1-2-3 . . . Read with Me!,” an early literacy program that debuted at Northfield Clinic and has expanded to Rice County Public Health’s WIC Clinics.

1-2-3 . . . Read with Me! encourages parents to read a book three times, in three different ways, to help their child learn to read and understand.


First Reading: Look at and talk about the pictures.
Second Reading: Read the words.
Third Reading: Discuss the big ideas.


Pediatricians Ben Flannery, MD, and Todd Amunrud, DO, promote shared reading to the families they see in the Northfield Clinic. During patient visits, they explain:

  • Why reading is important for brain health
  • How early reading stimulates the brain of infants and toddlers
  • How to read in the best way to benefit your child’s growing brain

“As a pediatrician and a dad, I think reading together this way is very valuable,” Dr. Flannery said. “I’m doing it at home, and encouraging patients’ parents to do it, too.”

Every child who visits Northfield Clinic for a preschool exam or attends a Northfield WIC Clinic gets a free book (in English or Spanish), with a sticker for parents on strategies for reading together.

1-2-3 . . . Read with Me! is led by Northfield Promise, with support from the Friends of the Northfield Public Library; Northfield Public Schools; Northfield Early Childhood Initiative Coalition; Northfield Healthy Community Initiative; Northfield Shares; Northfield Area United Way; Northfield Hospital & Clinics; and the Rotary Club of Northfield.

Article by Betsy Spethmann, Director of Community Relations for Northfield Hospital & Clinics

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