Posted by Jenifer Loon

DR. DON DRAAYER AND DR. SYLVIA SEKHON - Reach Out and Read: The Importance of Healthy Brain Development in Children Ages 0-5, and an Innovative Program to Help Support It

Dr. Sekhon, a pediatrician and adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota began the presentation with some very insightful facts and statistics about the importance of healthy brain development in very young children. Eighty percent of all brain development occurs between birth and age 3, with 90% completed by age 5. Adverse experiences in early childhood can disrupt the connections made in the brain and influence gene activity—this is known as epigenetics. Exposure to drugs while in the womb, abuse, neglect, stress, household dysfunction and other negative experiences can result in children with lower I.Q.s and learning difficulties. Children not ready for kindergarten and those not ready by third grade are at high risk of not graduating from high school.


Babies whose needs are met by a caregiver develops trust and a cycle of security is created which allows the child to be happy and develop normally. This includes talking to the baby, singing, and interacting with baby throughout the day. Children from economically secure families have heard 30 million words by age 3, while children in poverty have a much more limited vocabulary—about 500. This gap shows up starkly in kindergarten and is known as the achievement or opportunity gap.

The Reach Out and Read program was begun in Boston in 1989. The mission is provide a new book for a pediatrician to give to a family at each well child visit from birth to age 5, to encourage parents to read and talk to their children. Dr. Don Draayer, former Superintendant of the Minnetonka School District explained the goal is to have every clinic in Minnesota equipped to provide this free book to families at their well baby and child visits. Rotary can help by providing financial support to purchase the books--$100 will purchase 40 books.

The Excelsior Rotary Club Foundation is raising money from other Rotary Clubs and individuals for this program, and when $10,000 has been raised, a private grant will match the amount.

Currently there are 250 active clinic sites participating in Reach Out and Read. In addition to providing new books for babies and young children and their parents, used children’s books are being collected to place in a “free to take” bin in pediatrician’s offices, so families can supplement their book supplies from these gently used donations as well.



  • Judit, our Rotary Youth Exchange Student, addressed the club, expressing how happy she has been while staying with the Kraemer family. She will be moving to her next host family in a little over a week.
  • PROP is collecting gift cards to give to those in need this holiday season. If you can contribute a gift card to a grocery store, or for gas, or other necessities, it will be greatly appreciated. Contact PROP for more information (or Dick Ward or Jenifer Loon, PROP Board Members)
  • Holly Link is hosting Swallowship at her home this Thursday, November 15 th . She will be serving a simple supper of soup, bread and pie. Hope everyone can make it!
  • John Crudele remarked on the great Veteran’s Day lunch hosted by the Southwest Metro Rotary Clubs yesterday at the Bloomington Hilton with retired Colonel Ken Rizer as the featured speaker.


Kevin grew up on a farm in Nebraska where his family raised corn, soybeans and 100 head of black Angus cows and Kevin developed an affinity for training cutting horses. He attended Wayne State College which was close enough for him to return home to the farm on weekends. After graduation, Kevin worked in Omaha, then Minneapolis, and then California where he stayed for 10 years. It was in the Newport Beach area where Kevin learned to surf, played volleyball, and met his future wife, Sandy, a native of Rochester, MN. Kevin wooed her with horses, taking her to Nebraska for a two-day trail ride six weeks into the relationship, and sealed the deal. Kevin is a financial advisor, a profession he has enjoyed for 21 years, with an MBA from UCLA and a Certified Financial Planner designation. He currently works for Edward Jones in Eden Prairie. Kevin’s wife, Sandy, is Director of Clinical Programs for United Health Group. They have 3 daughters: A.J. is a freshman at the University of Nebraska Lincoln majoring in Global Studies and Spanish; Katie is a junior at EPHS and on the volleyball team; Annie is a freshman at EPHS and is also into volleyball and horses. Annie competes in barrel racing and poles events with her horse, Kevin’s events are cowboy mounted shooting and ranch rodeo, and the entire family enjoys trail rides in Carver County Park. The horses the Kraemer family owns are descendents of the horses Kevin’s father bought 44 years ago.


  • PG Narayanan is glad the election is over, but feels he won even though he did not prevail due to the many new friends he made, the support he gained, and he believes he is a better man than one year ago.
  • John Goergen was an election judge in EP Precinct 6 and reported the day’s voting went well with over 80% turned out to vote.
  • Brad Aho thanked people for their support for his mayoral bid, especially those who remembered him in prayer.
  • Jay Simpson saw Chief George Esbensen on Kare 11 News this morning, sharing important information on fire safety—something we all should heed!
  • Jacob (? Sorry, blanked on his last name) has been working on a big breakfast event in December for the Boy Scouts and just secured two outstanding speakers: former MN Supreme Court Justice Kathleen Blatz and a scout leader from Nepal who has climbed Mt. Everest from BOTH sides.
  • Matt Crane offered congratulations to the people who won elected office.
  • Roy Terwilager noted that the Third Congressional District in Minnesota had the highest voter turnout of any in the entire country—88.9 percent of registered voters voted in this election.

Judit Amaros-Marin - Exchange Student

Andy Tan - Student Intern