As Dr. Seuss wrote, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

The ability to read opens up a whole world of possibilities. A local group wants to help children gain that skill early in life.

“It’s probably one of the most important things we can do for our children to launch them on an exciting adventure of learning and figuring out what they want to do, and moving on to successful careers and lives,” said Tom Henz of the Greater Island Council of Hilton Head and Bluffton (GIC). “It all starts with reading.”

Henz is chairman of the GIC’s Education Committee, which has compiled a resource guide for parents and caregivers in Beaufort County. “Collaborate from Birth to Eight for Early Grade Reading” is filled with information on early grade reading programs available in the county.

Those programs include Born To Read, Beaufort County First Steps, Beaufort County Library, The Children’s Center, United Way of the Lowcountry, and Boys & Girls Clubs of Hilton Head Island and Bluffton. These groups will distribute the booklets to local families and pediatricians.

“The goal is to get the booklets to as many parents and caregivers as possible,” Henz said.

After serving on The United Way’s board of directors, Henz spent a year tutoring children to read through the organization’s Read Indeed program. Henz realized tutoring was not his strong suit, but he still wanted to do something to encourage children to start reading at a young age.

Through his work with the United Way, Henz had learned that children should be on grade level by the beginning of fourth grade, because it’s at that point that they make the switch from learning to read to reading to learn. If they aren’t proficient readers by the fourth grade, children often start falling behind in school.

That really stuck with Henz, so when he became involved with GIC, he joined the education committee. He and the other committee members devised a plan to put together a resource guide for current and future parents and caregivers of young children.

Another GIC member, Jack Ward of the Ward Foundation, offered to fund the first phase of the project – printing booklets in English. The next phase is to translate the booklet into Spanish and print copies for the Spanish-speaking community. At press time, funding had just been received for that printing.

If phases one and two are successful, the committee would like to partner with other communities to create similar booklets.

“We would certainly welcome and encourage those in the community with a passion for early grade reading to join our efforts,” Henz said.

For more information, contact Tracey Mrozek at

Amy Coyne Bredeson of Bluffton is a freelance writer, a mother of two and a volunteer with the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance.