Encouraging Words...The Reach Out and Read Program

One of the most enduring ways a parent or caregiver can impact their children’s future success is to read to them.   Mercy Central Pediatric clinic staff and physicians recognize their role in promoting early literacy by “prescribing reading” to their young patients and their parents through participation in the Reach Out and Read Program.

“Reach Out and Read Iowa is a nonprofit organization that trains and supports medical providers to give books to children and advice to parents on the importance of reading aloud to their children.  Age and culturally appropriate books are distributed during each of the child’s well-exam visits, from six months to age five, giving each child their own personal library,” explains Molly Ollinger Topf, Reach Out and Read Iowa Coalition Leader.  “Doctors and nurses educate parents on the importance of reading aloud as a tool to strengthen their child’s language development.”

Mercy Central Pediatrics has been participating in the program since 2008 and currently distributes over 6,000 books annually. Dr. Asha Madia, Reach Out and Read Physician Coordinator for Mercy Central Pediatrics, recognizes the importance of early language skill development in building the foundation for reading ability.  “Research shows 34% of American children entering kindergarten lack basic language skills needed to learn how to read.  I tell my families reading aloud to their children is the single most important investment they can make in their children’s future.  It will pay dividends in school as well as when they enter the workforce.” 

The impact of Reach Out and Read is tremendous.  Fifteen peer-reviewed studies consistently demonstrate that pre-school aged children who participate in the program are three to six months ahead of their peers in vocabulary, language development and pre-reading skills.  “When parents read aloud it has a significant effect on the child’s brain development.  The simple act of reading to a child dramatically increases a preschooler’s language abilities which are important for developing pre-reading skills,” shares Dr. Nader Ajluni, Mercy pediatrician and long-time Reach Out and Read champion.  “The Reach Out and Read program costs $10 per child annually and gives us the ability to act proactively in a child’s life rather than reactively.”

The clinic is appreciative of the community support they receive for their Reach Out and Read program.  “We are extremely grateful to the Reach Out and Read Iowa program for providing books and on-going training to our staff.  In 2012, Mercy Foundation was awarded a Target Early Childhood grant which helped us purchase an additional 700 books for our growing program.  We are truly thankful for this support,” states Dr. Asha Madia.

Mercy Central Pediatrics Clinic will require 7,000 books this year to ensure each of the children they serve receive a book.  Many children come from families who may not be able to afford the luxury of purchasing a book they can keep.  The books, personally given to them by their doctor, become a valued treasure.   If you would like to give the gift of reading to a young child, please consider a donation.  All gifts will be used to purchase books for the program.  For more information on how to donate, contact Mercy Foundation at (515) 247-3248.

The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.”   ~Dr. Suess

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