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SYS-CON MEDIA Authors: Pat Romanski, Yeshim Deniz, Carmen Gonzalez, Liz McMillan, Roger Strukhoff

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Cat-a-Van Reading Tour Hits the Road to Get Kids Reading, Brushing

NEA, Renaissance Dental celebrate Read Across America by asking students to grab their hats and read with the Cat

WASHINGTON, Feb. 20, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ --The Cat in the Hat is back, and he's revving up his engines to get kids excited about reading—and brushing their teeth!

(Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20140220/DC69045)

This year's official Read Across America celebrations will start in Seuss-tastic style when NEA's Cat-a-Van Reading Tour hits the road on February 24, and will cover more than 20 cities in eight states before capping off its three-week, 4,000-mile journey on March 14. The special Cat-a-Van Reading Tour, sponsored by the National Education Association and Renaissance Dental, will visit thousands of school children along the special reading route to deliver a very important message to students: 2 x 2 + 20 = good oral health and literacy habits.

The campaign is designed to increase the awareness around good oral health and literacy habits by asking children and their parents to brush for two minutes, two times per day, and read for 20 minutes each day for a daily total of 24 minutes. Reports show that American students miss 51 million hours of school every year because of oral health problems. In fact, tooth decay continues to be the single most common chronic childhood illness—about five times more common than asthma.

"Educators know that students need to come to school ready and able to learn, and students who are absent from class due to health problems are missing out on critical instruction time," said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. "Everyone from Horton to the Grinch can benefit from developing good oral health and reading habits."

Recent findings out of the Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC showed students who experience oral health pain are four times more likely to have lower grade point averages. Still other studies reveal that students who don't read at grade level by fourth grade are four times more likely to drop out of school.

"The sad part about these alarming statistics is that many of these oral health issues can be easily prevented and easily fixed," said Rob Mulligan, president and CEO at Renaissance Dental. "Visiting the dentist and developing good brushing habits early on are keys to preventing issues down the road. We feel that one of the best ways to communicate this message is by reaching out to educators, children and their parents through the classroom during the early educational years—and Renaissance Dental's partnership with NEA's Read Across America allows us to do this."

Stops along the Cat-a-Van reading route include Donna, Texas; Edinburgh, Texas, Laredo, Texas; San Antonio; Austin; Midwest City, Okla.; Shawnee, Okla.; Livonia, Mich.; Southfield, Mich.; Grand Rapids, Mich.; Indianapolis; Reynoldsburg, Ohio; Columbus, Ohio; Akron, Ohio; Strongsville, Ohio; Columbia, S.C.; Augusta, Ga.; Dublin, Ga.; Macon, Ga.; the greater Atlanta area; and Jackson, Miss.

As part of NEA's Cat-a-Van Reading Tour, more than 30,000 special stovepipe "reading" hats, books and toothbrushes plus other goodies like tooth timers will be distributed to students to keep them reading and brushing at home. Renaissance Dental also will be distributing more than $15,000 in grants to the libraries and media centers of the public schools visited by the Cat-a-Van Reading Tour to help keep their libraries stocked with books and other reading inspiration. Earlier this month, NEA and Renaissance Dental provided an additional $133,000 in grants—awarded to 18 NEA state affiliates in varying grant amounts ranging from $800 to $10,000—to purchase books and coordinate reading events with students statewide.

Originally created as a one-day event to celebrate the joy of reading, NEA's Read Across America was founded by NEA and Dr. Seuss Enterprises, L.P., and has grown into a nationwide initiative that promotes reading every day. Now in its 17th year, more than 45 million people young and old participate annually in the literacy program. Since Dr. Seuss's March 2nd birthday falls on a Sunday this year, the official Read Across America Day will be celebrated Monday, March 3 to allow schools nationwide to participate in the reading fun.

"The success behind NEA's Read Across America is that it gets kids excited about reading," added Van Roekel. "When children love to the read, Oh, the places they can go!"

About NEA
The National Education Association is the nation's largest professional employee organization, representing more than 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers. Learn more at www.nea.org.

About Renaissance Dental
Renaissance Dental provides quality and affordable dental insurance to organizations and individuals nationwide. Customizable dental options can be designed for groups as small as two enrollees. Renaissance Dental is the flagship product of Renaissance Life & Health Insurance Company of America and Renaissance Health Insurance Company of New York. www.RenaissanceDental.com.

For more information about NEA's Read Across America, visit www.nea.org/readacross 
To learn more about the link between oral health and literacy, check out http://2min2x.org 
Find us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/neareadacrossamerica 
Follow us on twitter at @NEAMedia
Keep up with the conversation with #neareads

SOURCE National Education Association

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