I first learned about Reach Out and Read during my residency training. We were told that this was a program where we engage parents and try to get them to read more with their children. We do this by providing a book during a well visit, discuss with parents about the importance of reading to children regularly, and the beneficial outcome of early engagement.
I love being able to explain to parents the importance of reading to children and seeing the immediate transformation. The parents immediately start reading the prescribed book to the children and start engaging more. So much of pediatrics is preventative and to see a change so quickly is so rare!
When I opened my own practice, I wanted to bring that excitement back into my work. I started buying my own books from an outlet store called Ollie’s and I began distributing them out during well check-ups. The books are new, less than $1, but priceless when you see the look on each child’s face! After about a year of doing my own version of Reach Out and Read, I applied to be a Reach Out and Read Georgia partner. My staff and I received official training through an online program and, soon after, our Reach Out and Read Georgia coordinator visited us to discuss the program further in person.
Being a part of Reach Out and Read Georgia is not very time consuming. We color code our books using colored index cards. The 6-12 month old books have a pink index card inserted into the book, 13-18 months have yellow, 19-24 months have blue, 25-35 months have green, and 3-5 years have white. We take out the index card from each book prior to giving it to the child. At the end of the month, we count all of the index cards and match it with the number of well checks in each age range as well as the number of books left. One of the nurses usually fulfills this role to ensure we are providing age appropriate books to each child.
Not only are we encouraging parent interaction with children in a time of excessive screen time usage, but we are helping set children up for future academic achievements.
Since joining Reach Out and Read Georgia, we have received some books through the program and even started receiving donations from our local Barnes and Noble bookstore. As children began to age out of their books, they insisted on receiving a book during their next well visits. We started buying books for the older children and now provide books as old as 16 years of age. I still supplement the donated books with regular trips to Ollies because reading and book sharing is so valuable.
There is a sense of accomplishment when my older patients get excited about which book they will be receiving during the well checkup! I find this program to be extremely rewarding. Not only are we encouraging parent interaction with children in a time of excessive screen time usage, but we are helping set children up for future academic achievements.
Pediatric Perspective shared by Dr. Hiral Lavania of One Family Pediatrics in Cumming, Georgia