Reach Out and Read Reaches North Shore Pediatrics
Getting books from the doctor will soon be a routine part of well child visits at North Shore Pediatrics, as doctors and nurses welcome the Reach Out and Read program to the practice. North Shore Pediatrics joins more than 3,797 programs nationally that are working to make books part of a healthy childhood.
Reach Out and Read is a national, non-profit program that is working to make literacy promotion a standard part of pediatric primary care, so that children grow up with books and a love of reading. The key elements to this program are for pediatricians to educate parents about the importance of reading with their children every day and to give books to children at pediatric check-ups from 6 months to 5 years of age. This year Reach Out and Read will provide more then 5.4 million books to more than 3 million children.
The Reach Out and Read program was developed in a pediatric primary care clinic at Boston City Hospital, making books and the encouragement of early literacy part of every day pediatric practice. The program was co-founded by Barry Zuckerman, M.D. who commented that "giving a book to a young child, along with age-appropriate advice about sharing books for the parents, may be the only concrete activity a pediatrician can routinely do to promote child development." Medical research supports that claim, showing that literacy-promoting interventions by the pediatrician have a significant effect on parental behaviors, beliefs and attitudes toward reading aloud. For more than a decade, studies have indicated that parents who get books and literacy counseling from their doctors and nurses are more likely to read to their younger children, read to them more often, and provide more books in the home. Several studies have shown that when families participate in Reach Out and Read children show significant improvement in expressive and receptive language, and parents have more positive attitudes toward books and reading. In addition, the only behavior that correlates significantly with reading scores is the number of books in the home (McQuillan, 1998).
The practice of pediatrics has always been very rewarding because it provides an opportunity to develop relationships with children and their parents. The focus of pediatrics has always gone beyond just treating illnesses; its primary focus has consistently been the promotion of lifelong health. Therefore, I quickly became committed to the Reach Out and Read concept since my introduction to the program. One of the most important parts of the well-child visit has always been the administration of vaccines. However, giving books to children takes away some of the focus and fear they have of the check up because they get a book in the office that they can take home. And the pleasure I see in children’s faces when they receive the book is certainly very rewarding to me as a physician. I have often commented to parents that giving out the books also helps me during the visit because the book often distracts the child long enough for me to perform the physical. The enthusiasm and appreciation that has been expressed to me by parents has helped me realize how important this program is to all of us at North Shore Pediatrics in fostering stronger relationships with the children and their parents. And promoting literacy is simply a natural part of preventative pediatrics and promotion of a child’s development.