The works of Dr. Seuss, Mother Goose and many other authors can be heard echoing inside the University of Maryland Hospital for Children's Pediatric Ambulatory Center. When young patients walk through the door of the clinic, they enter an environment that encourages reading. The waiting room does not have a television, it is instead filled with books and magazines. Sometimes there is even a trained volunteer reading a story aloud.
The Pediatric Ambulatory Center takes part in a program called "Reach Out and Read," a nationwide effort designed to use pediatricians to prescribe literacy and promote the importance of reading aloud to children.
"Not only do our young patients hear a story in the waiting room, the doctors give them a book to take home," says Virginia Keane, M.D., director of the Pediatric Ambulatory Center at the University of Maryland Hospital for Children and associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. More than 3,000 books have been given away each year since Dr. Keane brought "Reach Out and Read" to the center four years ago. "Our goal is to encourage parents to read these books to their children. We explain to mothers and fathers that reading aloud is crucial to childhood development and helps prepare children for school," adds Dr. Keane.
"We want our patients and their families to think reading is important, if for no other reason than their doctor said it is," explains Richard Mecchi-Ericson, coordinator of "Reach Out and Read" at the University of Maryland Hospital for Children. He adds, "Many of our patients come from low-income communities in West Baltimore. We want to help break the cycle of poverty by stressing reading and helping these children to do well in school."
The program, founded at Boston City Hospital in 1989, has been instituted at more than one thousand hospitals across the country. Nationwide, more than 2 million books were handed out last year. Research suggests that the program is a great success. Studies found that parents whose children receive a book as part of the program are four times more likely to read to their children than parents not exposed to the program. In addition, low income urban families who received books and counseling from a doctor are almost five times as likely to consider reading to be important.
Those who are interested in helping the University of Maryland Hospital for Children's "Reach Out and Read" program by volunteering to read, donating books or contributing funds should call 410-328-5600.
For patient inquiries, call 1-800-492-5538 or click here to make an appointment.