Did you know that October is a lot more than just the month for Halloween and Breast Cancer Awareness? October is also National Dental Hygiene Month, National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, National Bullying Prevention Month, and last but not least – National Health Literacy Month!

I’m excited to highlight two agencies and their work to promote literacy throughout Rowan County. Literacy allows us to understand the world around us from building our vocabulary through books, to being able to understand the news, and understanding how to keep our bodies healthy. I’m partnering with Amy Brown, Executive Director of Smart Start Rowan, and Don Doering, President of the Rowan County Literacy Council, to illuminate programs that encourage reading and literacy.


Doctor Prescribed Books

For over two decades, Smart Start Rowan has served young children and their families, to ensure that children enter school healthy and ready for success. One key component of Smart Start Rowan’s work is promoting early literacy programs that develop a love of reading in young children and educate parents on the importance of reading to their children. Through a partnership with the Rowan County United Way that began in 2015, Smart Start Rowan has been able to consistently provide Reach Out & Read (ROR), a nationwide evidence-based program with exceptional literacy outcomes, to over 70% of children birth-age 5 in Rowan County. At local medical practices and at the Rowan County Health Department, children receive a book and a “prescription to read” from a medical professional during each well child visit. This “prescription to read” includes advice to parents about the importance of reading aloud to their children. For more information about Reach Out & Read, visit their website here.


Rowan County Literacy Council and Smart Start Rowan provide programs that encourage reading and literacy in Rowan County.


In fiscal year 2018-2019, Smart Start Rowan served 6 medical practices that employed 31 medical providers. Almost 7,000 children, ages birth to 5 years old, received developmentally appropriate books, along with a “prescription to read”, at their well child visits. Research shows us that if a physician prescribes reading, parents are more likely to engage in reading with their children. Additionally, we know that young children need to hear about 21,000 words per day. The simple act of talking to kids helps them develop not just their vocabulary, but their language skills, including listening, memory, and speaking. These early interactions increase a child’s chances of completing both high school and college. We all want our Rowan County kids to succeed!


Reach Out & Read Program is being implemented at Salisbury Pediatrics in Salisbury, NC.


From Novant Health Granite Quarry Internal Medicine & Pediatrics, Dr. David Caron, MD says, “The Reach Out And Read program is vitally important to our community. The tiny patients that we serve often times have never “owned” a book, so it’s genuinely our pleasure to present them their first prized piece of reading material. Parents are grateful and some have been in tears as our direct pediatric patient base consists of all backgrounds, however, many are in lower income house-holds. We are proud to do our part in encouraging reading at an early age in the home.”


Dr. Acquawon Jean Stallworth, MD of Novant Health Salisbury Medical with a patient during the Read Out & Read program.


How cool is this program!? Check out the ROR video, which showcases the program very well.


Rowan County Literacy Council – Where Literacy is a Priority

The Rowan County Literacy Council has been in continuous operation since 1976. Their office is located in the Rowan Public Library headquarters on 201 W. Fisher St. in Salisbury, NC. They are a United Way Member Agency. Their mission is to provide literacy instruction to individuals regardless of means or ability to pay, to improve the quality of life for individuals, and to advocate for literacy awareness. They work with the vision that one day all people in our community will be literate.

In Rowan County’s 2018 Community Needs Assessment, a collaborative effort by Rowan County Health Department, Healthy Rowan, Novant Health Rowan Medical Center, and Rowan County United Way, it was noted that Employment & Workforce Readiness is the 4th-highest community priority according to Rowan County residents.

Literacy is the foundation of our businesses, education systems, healthcare systems, social service providers, and nearly any agency you can think of in the community. It’s vitally important to ensure there is space to promote and engage with citizens through the literacy programs.

The Rowan County Literacy Council offers programming for both adults and children. Most of their tutoring is one-on-one, and they offer some small group instruction. All materials are free for students and tutors. All tutors are trained and undergo background checks.


Don Doering, President of the Rowan Literacy Council, tutoring during an adult program.


Adult programs:  These programs serve both English-speaking students and speakers of other languages over the age of 16. They offer general literacy tutoring, English as a Second Language (ESL) instruction, GED tutoring, and assistance in preparing to take the United States citizenship exam. Their students come in order to improve their reading and/or improve their English language abilities. They are motivated by professional goals such as new or improved employment or entry into job-based training programs, as well as personal goals such as preparation for High School Equivalency exams, U.S. citizenship exams, post-secondary studies, or increased participation in their children’s education. Other motivating factors include desire to manage personal finances, understand healthcare issues, and a desire for increased civic/social involvement.


The Rowan County Literacy Council offers programming for both adults and children.


Youth Programs: They offer in-school tutoring at numerous Rowan-Salisbury School System sites in conjunction with the Communities in Schools of Rowan. They also offer after-school and summertime tutoring to students in the library. They typically work with students who are below grade-level in reading to get them back on track.

Looking for how you can give back to the Rowan County community? The Rowan County Literacy Council is in need of volunteers. In fact, they have a long list of students on the waiting list! They are always in need of volunteer tutors as well. They provide training and support. Prior teaching experience or foreign language experience is NOT required. The commitment is only 1.5 hours per week, at a time that is convenient for the volunteer.