There’s more to ensuring a child’s well-being than just making sure they’re physically healthy. No matter how young, a child’s mental and emotional development is just as vital.
One important way to aid development is by reading to children starting in infancy. Numerous studies show that reading to children stimulates brain growth and, according to a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Reading strengthens parent-child relationships at a critical time in child development, which, in turn, builds language, literacy and social-emotional skills that last a lifetime.”
Unfortunately many children don’t have this opportunity. Those same studies show that one-in-three children enter kindergarten without the language skills necessary to learn reading. And approximately 2/3 of children fail to develop reading proficiency by third grade.
There can be many factors preventing a parent from reading to their children, from a lack of financial resources for purchasing books, to a lack of information on how to choose appropriate material. Others may simply be unaware of its importance in their child’s development. That is why Madison Healthcare Services will be hosting a pilot program that aims to help provide books for these young patients as part of their regular Well-Child visits.
The Reach Out & Read program, which was started over 20 years ago by pediatricians at Boston Medical Center, is coming to MHS. Reach Out & Read provides age appropriate books to children during their Well-Child visits to help foster their development.
“Children six months to five years of age will be given a complimentary book at each Well-Child visit,” explains Melanie Miller, (RN). “If they attend all of their Well-Child visits, children will begin kindergarten with 10 complimentary books.”
Miller, who is a nurse at the hospital (and is pursing her doctorate degree in family nurse practice) is the one the people responsible for bringing Reach Out & Read to the facility.
“Ninety percent of all brain development occurs before the age of five,” says Miller. “Ninety percent. And children who are part of this program score three to six months ahead of their peers on vocabulary tests. It helps introduce new words and also teaches them to concentrate and sit still.”
The program is already underway, having started Jan. 1, 2017, and several families have already received books as a result.
Along with the books themselves, doctors and nurses will advise parents on how to get started reading to their children and provide them with helpful literature. Marie Nolte, (MD), medical director for the program, is assisting with these literature updates and educational resources for the providers and nurses.
Funding for the program was made possible thanks to donations from a local individual and the LqPV Early Childhood Initiative.
“My hope is to keep this going indefinitely,” says Miller, regarding the Reach Out & Read program.
For now, the pilot program is slated to run until April, but if it proves successful in the coming months, providing books could become a regular part of MHS’s Well-Child visits.
They will continue to need funding, however, so they welcome any monetary donations or books.
“Funding is great, because we like to purchase developmentally appropriate books from Reach Out & Read,” says Miller. “But anyone who wants to donate books – we can then have those books available for children to read in the waiting area and the rooms.”
To schedule a Well-Child visit for your child, or to learn more, call the clinic at 320-598-7551. You can also contact the clinic if you’re interested in donating to the Reach Out & Read program. Questions about donations can be directed to Miller, or to clinic manager Kris Monson.