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Cat-a-Van Tours Hit the Road to Get Kids Reading, Brushing

NEA, Renaissance Dental asking students to grab their hat and read with the Cat


WASHINGTON - February 21, 2013 -

The Cat in the Hat is back, and he’s revving up his engines to get kids excited about reading—and brushing their teeth!

NEA’s Cat-a-Van Reading Tour will hit the road on February 25, and conclude on March 1—the official Read Across America Day. The Cat-a-Vans will travel to more than 30 schools, and visit thousands of school children along the way. The tour is made possible through a unique partnership between the National Education Association and Renaissance Dental Renaissance Dental.  The two have teamed up 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.

“Students who are absent from class due to health problems are missing out on critical instruction time. That’s especially significant in early grades where reading skills are an important focus and create the building blocks of future learning,” 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 is key 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.”

The 17 cities along the Cat-a-Van reading route include Phoenix, Ariz.; Boise, Idaho; Las Vegas, Nev.; Albuquerque, N.M.; Little Rock, Ark.; Sherwood, Ark.; Nashville, Tenn.; Hopkinsville, Ky.; Indianapolis, Ind.; East Cleveland, Ohio; Warren, Mich.; Lansing, Mich.; Charleston, W.V.; Charlotte, N.C.; Atlanta, Ga.; Orlando, Fla.; and Miami, Fla.

Three Cat-a-Vans will log more than 5,100 miles as they travel from coast to coast in celebration of NEA’s Read Across America. Along the reading route, more than 20,000 books, toothbrushes, tooth timers and other goodies will be distributed to students to keep them reading and brushing at home. Renaissance Dental also will be distributing more than $30,000 in grants to public schools visited by the Cat-a-Van Reading Tour to help keep their libraries stocked with books and other reading inspiration.

Originally created as a one-day event to celebrate the joy of reading, Read Across America, sponsored by NEA and Dr. Seuss Enterprises, L.P., has grown into a nationwide initiative that promotes reading every day. Now in its 16th year, more than 45 million people young and old participate annually in the literacy program. Since Dr. Seuss’s March 2 birthday falls on a Saturday this year, the official Read Across America Day will be celebrated Friday, March 1 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 on Twitter at #neareads, #catinhat and #raa13

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CONTACT: Staci Maiers, National Education Association, (202) 822-7150 or (202) 270-5333 cell, smaiers@nea.org; Sarina Gleason, Renaissance Dental, (517) 347-5292 or (517) 256-5618 cell, sgleason@renaissancefamily.com