Health-care providers team with Reach Out and Read Colorado to prescribe a healthy dose of literacy.
A prescription for reading is just the thing many of Eagle County’s littlest patients receive when it’s time for a check up. Reach Out and Read Colorado creates book nooks in doctors’ offices throughout the state – providing a dose of literacy, liberally applied, aimed at instilling a lifetime love of literacy.
Often times reading starts at home, but for some families this just isn’t the case. Many children, especially those growing up in low-income households, spend their earliest years without books. Enter Reach Out and Read. Eagle County family physician Dr. Kent Petrie reads with his young grandchildren for fun, sure, but also to provide early exposure to books and reading that prepares children for success in school. That’s why Dr. Petrie and 41 health care providers throughout the county share the Reach Out and Read Colorado program to young patients and their families.
Reach Out and Read is a book giveaway program cleverly disguised as a prescription for literacy. Reach Out and Read Colorado partners with health-care providers like Dr. Petrie to give new, age-appropriate books to children at well-child visits from six months to five years of age. Perhaps even more importantly, these health-care providers give parents the resources and encouragement to read with their children every day. In the Vail Valley, every year this prescription is delivered to nearly 2,000 children at health clinics including Colorado Mountain Medical, Eagle County Public Health, Eagle Valley Medical Center, Mountain Family Health Center Edwards, Mountain Family Health Center Basalt and Roaring Fork Family Physicians.
The result? Children get excited about reading and learn to love books from a very young age. “The Reach Out and Read program has been a huge success in our office,” says Dr. Petrie, who delivers the program at Mountain Family Health Center and serves as the Medical Adviser for Eagle County Public Health. “Kids ask, ‘Do I get a book this time?’ when they walk in the door. We have had to create a library of extra books for older siblings. There are books everywhere in the office. It’s wonderful to walk into an exam room and have to interrupt a child from their reading to do their check-up.”
One reason Reach Out and Read is so effective is that it reaches children and families in a place they naturally visit. According to a Census Bureau report, more than 95 percent of all children under age 5 receive preventative health care, while less than 30 percent are in any formal childcare setting. Plus, parents look to doctors and health-care providers to give them advice about their child’s development. Fifteen peer-reviewed research studies provide evidence that the program works: Reach Out and Read children start school with a three- to six-month developmental edge over non-Reach Out and Read peers.
Theresa Carey, Eagle County Public Health nurse and Reach Out and Read Colorado site coordinator, sees these results every day. “The Reach Out and Read program has been so well received in our Eagle County Public Health clinics since its inception in the spring of 2012,” Theresa says. “The books provided by the program lessen the anxiety of children’s immunization visits. When kids see the books, their eyes light up and smiles appear. Any discomfort from the vaccines is soon forgotten, replaced by the contentment of a book.”
In addition to the gift of a book and instruction to read aloud with children, Reach Out and Read Colorado clinics aim to create havens for book lovers with gently used books, literacy information for parents and volunteer readers for families in the waiting room.
Reach Out and Read Colorado is part of the national Reach Out and Read model that serves 4.1 million children annually. Reach Out and Read is endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners. In 2013, it was awarded the David M. Rubenstein Prize by the Library of Congress for its groundbreaking contribution to the sustained advancement of literacy worldwide.
There’s little as sweet as a child asking you to read her a book. With Reach Out and Read, there are so many ways share a story: Spearhead a community or corporate book drive or volunteer to turn a stressful waiting room time into story time. No time? A $55 donation provides a prescription for one child to receive a full library of 10 books. Local community support is vital: Individual donations to purchase books and facilitate the program may be made to support a particular clinic, a specific county or a region. Donations of gently used books are always welcome and help ensure that each clinic has a reading area for families.