Program gives Kennewick baby head start at reading

David Young is only 15 months old, but he already likes books --turning the pages, gazing at the pictures, listening to his mom read the stories aloud.

The Kennewick tot got an early start thanks to a Children's Reading Foundation of the Mid-Columbia program supported by the Hanford contractor Mission Support Alliance.

The program, called Books for Babies, provides a free book to all babies born at hospitals in the Tri-Cities and Prosser.

MSA announced a $10,000 donation Thursday, bringing its total contribution to $40,000 in four years.

Hanford work can be stressful, but "days like today make it all worthwhile," said Dave Ruscitto, MSA's chief operations officer, before handing an oversized check to the reading foundation's executive director during the morning ceremony.

He talked about the importance of getting a jump-start on reading, noting children who don't get a strong foundation consistently fall behind in their education the rest of their lives.

About 7,500 books were given away through the program last year. David and his mom, Kim Martini-Young, got one about birds.

The books also come with information about early reading and programs in the community -- materials Martini-Young said were especially helpful.

"I was very thankful to learn about more resources that would help my child," she told the Herald.

Amy Ward, executive director of the Mid-Columbia reading foundation, said the partnership with MSA "really allows us to put reading and literacy as a priority from Day One. We are really excited about this partnership that's continued year after year."

On the Net: www.readingfoundation.org/mid-columbia.