The 3-Minute Interview: HyeSook Chung of DC Action for Children

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People,Lisa Gartner

Chung is executive director of DC Action for Children, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing awareness about the number of District children living in poverty and facing other challenges.

What can we be thankful for?

There are some really tremendous things happening in the city. We have 98 percent of children covered with health insurance. Coverage is different than access, but it's outstanding. We also have universal prekindergarten in the District, which makes real long-term differences for students. And nowhere else in the country is the under-5 age group growing faster than in the District. We're challenging the city to think of some strategies to make sure education is better for that future generation.

Such as?

In D.C., we don't start testing students until they're in the third grade. But a lot of the kids coming in are impacted by extreme poverty that's spanned generations. We're providing oral health screenings, immunizations and other health assessments all before kindergarten, but imagine if we focused on that in the grades beyond kindergarten.

What can residents who are feeling the holiday spirit do to help out?

First and foremost, if you're a parent, focus on reading, no matter how young your children are. My husband used to laugh at me when I read to my 2-month-old children, but now they're reading well beyond their grade levels. It's not reading comprehension when they're 2 months old, but it's the literacy and the value of reading we're trying to teach. And I would say get involved in your neighborhood schools. You could volunteer, or you could get involved with your school board representative. The schools always need tutors -- always, always. Or have a book drive! I was mortified when I walked into a Southeast preschool and there were only two or three books in their reading nook. It's an easy way to help kids out who really need it.

- Lisa Gartner

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