Reach out and Read
Venice Family Clinic has been giving books to children during doctors' visits since 1999 as part of our Reach Out and Read Program, also known as the Pediatric Literacy Program. Reach Out and Read is a national program designed by pediatricians and early childhood educators to incorporate literacy promotion into regular doctor visits. Pediatricians give children books, read to them during office visits, and foster a discussion with the parent about the importance of reading with their child. The interaction between child, parent, and doctor goes a long way to spark interest in reading and sets an example for the parent to regularly read to their child. Of the nearly 25,000 patients the Clinic serves each year, 27% are children, making the Clinic a unique platform for promoting literacy to thousands of low-income children.
Clinic staff and volunteers can be found putting the program into action everyday. In the waiting room, volunteers read out loud to young patients in an effort to create an educational experience while waiting to see the doctor. Often times, parents and older siblings join in, making for a meaningful interaction amongst family members, while building rapport between staff and patients. Upon seeing the doctor every child is provided with a book from the Clinic’s collection of donated materials. To reinforce the importance of continuing to read to their children at home, the doctor writes the parents a prescription to read out loud to their child at home.
The impact of Venice Family Clinic’s Pediatric Literacy Program is best demonstrated by stories like that of a young family that recently visited the Clinic. The parents and three children, ages eight, four and two weeks-old, came to see their pediatrician for the baby’s check-up. Upon entering, the doctor handed the two older boys books and asked, “Who wants to read a book to the baby?” With enthusiasm, both boys responded, “Me!” With the help of the doctor, the boys proceeded to read aloud to their baby brother through the examination. The older brother took a look at his own book, which was written in Spanish. As he flipped through the pages with excitement, he realized it was about trucks, his favorite toys. At the end of the visit the eight year old exclaimed, "I love this book!” The physician that shared this story explains, “Things like that happen all the time. The books make a real difference! Thank you!”
Statistics on literacy and children show that a lack of exposure to reading at an early age is a main driver of poor future educational outcomes. As such, any interaction that promotes reading between parent and child or opens a dialogue about the importance of literacy is impactful. This is especially the case when it comes to low income children, since low income children are at a disadvantage before they even begin school. Research suggests that the average middle-class five year old is able to recognize twenty-two letters and sounds from the alphabet. By comparison, low-income children identify just nine. The results of these findings adversely impact a low-income child’s ability to learn successfully upon entering the education system. With early intervention and access to reading materials these discrepancies based on socio-economic status can be remedied.
The benefits of the program go beyond promoting literacy. Staff at the Clinic have observed that the books themselves serve as comfort during stressful procedures. In one instance, a 6-year-old boy was having his blood drawn during his visit; he was, not surprisingly, very scared. Equipped with the new book his son had just received, his father began reading to him to distract him from the process. After the blood was drawn, the boy continued to clutch his book closely and moments later, staff watched as he read calmly with his father.
A majority of the books for this program are donated to Venice Family Clinic by the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation, a foundation committed to helping needy and disadvantaged children. Community members interested in volunteering with Venice Family Clinic’s Reach Out and Read program may contact Ingrid Trejo, Pediatric Literacy Program Coordinator, at 310.664.7532 or firstname.lastname@example.org for details. Donations of new books or used books in great condition may be dropped-off in person at the Simms/Mann Clinic, located at 2509 Pico Blvd. in Santa Monica.”
This story was contributed by Samantha Carnell, a Clinic volunteer who is currently pursuing a graduate degree in public health.
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