When pediatricians and family physicians at Charles Drew Community Health Center in Burlington, N.C., advise patients to read their prescriptions, the instructions are to be taken literally. Medical providers are the health center are sending families home from checkups with free books.
The effort is part of the Reach Out and Read program at federally qualified community health centers such as Drew, which provides comprehensive primary health care services for both children and adults. Since 2002, Charles Drew -- one of seven community health centers managed and operated by Piedmont Health Services -- has participated in Reach Out and Read, a national nonprofit program that prepares America’s youngest children to succeed in school by partnering with doctors to prescribe books and encourage families to read together.
The program was highlighted earlier this month when Congressman David Price visited the health center to read to a group of young patients. About 15 young children and their parents gathered in the waiting room as the Congressman shared some favorite books, including “Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed” and “Clifford the Small Red Puppy.”
“We know that children who enjoy books regularly with their families start school with larger vocabularies and better prepared to learn in kindergarten," Dr Kori Flower, a pediatrician at the health center. "We thank Congressman Price for sharing the joy of reading aloud and reinforcing the value of families reading together.”
The mission of the Reach Out and Read program is embraced by all of Piedmont Health community health centers. Doctors, nurse practitioners, and other medical professionals incorporate Reach Out and Read's evidence-based model into regular pediatric checkups, by advising parents about the importance of reading aloud and giving developmentally-appropriate books to children.
Through Reach Out and Read, each child starts kindergarten with a home library of up to 10 books and a parent who has heard at every health supervision visit about the importance of books and reading. The program begins at the 6-month checkup and continues through age 5, with a special emphasis on children growing up in low-income communities. Approximately 1,100 children receive books and literacy guidance through the Reach Out and Read program at Charles Drew Community Health Center. Reach Out and Read serves children at 155 locations across the state of North Carolina, reaching more than 143,000 infants, toddlers and preschoolers each year.
The Reach Out and Read model is endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the program has one of the strongest records of research support of any primary care intervention. Reach Out and Read doctors and nurses distribute over 6.5 million books to more than 4 million children and their families annually at 5,000 pediatric practices, hospitals, clinics and health centers in all 50 states. More than 12,000 medical providers nationwide currently participate in Reach Out and Read.