Instead of leaving the doctor’s office with a prescription for their child’s ear infection or strep throat, some Valley parents are taking home Curious George or Madeline.
Physicians working with Reach Out and Read are prescribing books to young children and their parents with the intention of bringing families together and also giving young children a head start on the school years to come.
Serving nearly four million children across the country, Reach Out and Read has partnered with 4,500 hospitals and health centers so pediatricians can prescribe books during regular checkups. Young children leave the office with a new book in hand.
During the checkups, doctors talk to parents about how important it is for them to read with their children while they are still very little, even if all they do is look at the pictures.
According to Reach Out and Read, preschool-age children who read with their parents have an easier time learning to read once they reach school. Because test scores and school standards put such a huge focus on reading skills, this could be a very important step to improving national averages in reading.
Another focus of Reach Out and Read is to provide reading materials to low-income families who may not have money to spend on books because they are busy providing the basics.
“A typical middle-class child enters first grade with approximately 1,000 hours of read-aloud time, while a child from a low-income family averages just 25 hours,” according to the Reach Out and Read website.
If doctors can be a resource for distributing developmentally appropriate books, children from low-income families have a chance at bringing those hours up.
The other huge benefit to the program is bringing families closer together. When I was little, my parents, my sister and I would sit down in the living room every night before bed and read a book. This ritual continued into my teens as we all became addicted to the Harry Potter books and refused to wait to take turns reading them.
Now, even with my busy school/internship/social life schedule, I try to fit in reading for fun whenever I can. I bring books to kill time on the light rail or while I’m waiting for appointments to start. Because of the love for reading my parents gave me I rarely struggled with school reading assignments because I associated them with fun. With this program, parents may be able to create little bookworms of their own.
Check out the Reach Out and Read list of recommended books. — Veronica Jones