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MDH Pediatric Clinic Joins ‘Reach Out and Read’ Program

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Reach Out and Read Feature Video

MACOMB, Ill. – The McDonough District Hospital Pediatric Clinic recently joined the national “Reach Out and Read” program, working to promote literacy in children from ages six months to five years old. Liberty Balbort, MD, and Julie Bartlow CPBP-PC, NNP-BC, began the program, which is currently rising in popularity throughout the state of Illinois and nationally.

The clinic renovated an area of the waiting room to accommodate the new program – creating a reading area with beanbag chairs, a play-area rug and bookshelf full of new materials.

The Reach Out and Read program begins at the 6-month checkup by providing developmentally-appropriate books and continues through age five, with a special emphasis on children growing up in low-income communities. Families served by the Reach Out and Read program read together more often and their children enter kindergarten with larger vocabularies and stronger language skills.

“My initial exposure to Reach Out and Read was during my residency training program. Every time a child came for a well-check we would give them a brand new book. The families were very receptive and really appreciated the books they could take home and share,” said Balbort. “The benefits of the program allow the care providers in our clinic to encourage parents to spend quality time with their children reading. At every well-check we discuss important things on how to properly care for your children, we talk about safety precautions, self-care, diet, and it’s also important for us to talk about reading to your children. That’s how parents and caregivers feed their children’s brains. It helps them to stimulate their children, and develop language, attention and listening skills while allowing high-quality bonding time.”

Pediatric healthcare providers are trained in the three-part Reach Out and Read model to promote early literacy and school readiness. In the exam room, the providers speak with parents about the importance of reading aloud to their young children every day. The pediatric primary care provider gives every child six months through five years old a new developmentally-appropriate children’s book to take home and keep. In the waiting room, information displays and books create a literacy-rich environment.

Throughout Illinois, the Reach Out and Read program partners with more than 135 sites to distribute 142,000 books annually to 118,000 children. Nationally, more than four million children have already benefited from the program across 5,000 sites.

“As parents ourselves, Dr. Balbort and I treasure the opportunity to read with our children. Reading at home helps lay the foundation for children to succeed in school and beyond,” said Bartlow. “We are so excited to give families the tools they need to read and make memories in their home.”

Those interested in supporting the program can do so with a monetary donation or donating new or gently-used children’s picture books to the Reach Out and Read waiting room at the MDH Pediatric Clinic.

On average, a $100 donation to the program buys 40 books and helps 40 families while a $250 donation helps purchase 110 books and supports 110 families.

For more information on MDH’s Reach Out and Read program or to schedule a wellness checkup appointment (for both new and existing patients), contact the MDH Pediatric Clinic at (309) 833-1729. People can also donate to the program by calling the MDH Foundation office at (309) 836-1757.

About Reach Out and Read: Reach Out and Read is an evidence-based nonprofit organization of medical providers who promote early literacy and school readiness in pediatric exam rooms nationwide by giving new books to children and advice to parents about the importance of reading aloud. The end goal of Reach Out and Read is to prepare all children to enter kindergarten ready to read, learn and succeed. 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. This year, Reach Out and Read’s 20,000 volunteer medical providers will distribute 6.5 million new books to four million children at more than 5,000 healthcare locations in all 50 states.