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LINDA DAUGAARD: Warm up to reading this summer

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opinion Mitchell, 57301
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

Now that the children are finished with school and the weather has warmed up, it's really beginning to feel like summer. The family vacations, camping trips, picnics and baseball games have all begun and our calendars are filling up with our summer plans.

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Regardless of what your plans are for the next three months, I hope you'll take the time to pick up a book this summer and encourage your children to do the same.

When I was a librarian, I came to realize just how crucial reading is to child development and learning. Children who read regularly tend to be better writers and speakers, and generally have higher GPAs. Unfortunately, as a nation we haven't been performing very well in reading. According to Scholastic, only one-third of students entering high school are proficient in reading, and in 2013, only 44 percent of American students who took the ACT met the reading benchmark.

When Dennis became governor, I began a reading tour traveling to all corners of the state to read to third-, fourth- and fifth-graders. A few weeks ago, I visited my 250th school, and overall, I've read to around 23,600 elementary students across the state.

My goal is to inspire young students to pick up a book, not only for educational purposes but for the sheer enjoyment of it. On my visits I've found that the children generally like to read, they've just been faced with other distractions. Though we're fortunate to live in an age of advanced technology, that technology is not without its drawbacks. Most children have a stronger tendency to turn on the TV or the computer than to pick up a book. My reading tour serves as a reminder that reading can be just as fun, or even more fun, than a movie or a video game.

Though I hope my reading tour is making a difference, I know an even bigger difference can be made in the classroom and even more so in the home.

So along with enjoying the outdoors and spending some quality time with family, I hope you'll encourage the people in your life -- whether they're your children, grandchildren, younger siblings, or nieces or nephews -- to read this summer. And even for those of us who have been out of the classroom for a while, picking up a book this summer is a great idea.

-- Linda Daugaard is South Dakota's first lady. Her husband, Dennis Daugaard, a Republican, is in his first term as governor of South Dakota.

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