Efforts by two children’s health care practices to promote early childhood literacy got shots in the arm this month when a program spearheaded by United Way of Pitt County delivered several boxes of books to each.
Books from Birth made a stop East Carolina University Pediatrics on Wednesday and Pirate Pediatrics last week to support their Reach out and Read efforts. Reach out and Read gives a book to children from 6 months to 5 years old during every regular check-up. Caregivers at the offices also encourage families to read aloud together and offers guidance on how to read aloud.
“That’s a really important part of Reach out and Read that I think is worth emphasizing,” said Melissa Adamson of the United Way. “You don’t want to read it like you’re reading instructions. You want to read it with enthusiasm with emphasis on specific words. Through that modeling and teaching the families how to read aloud, they can do it in their home.”
The books that Adamson delivered were from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library collection. The Books From Birth: Early Literacy Coalition of ENC program, initiated and backed by United Way, is partnering with Imagination Library to deliver the books to every child in Pitt County younger than 5.
ECU Pediatrics has provided books to about 1,400 children in the past year, Amber Davis, a medical social worker at the practice, said.
“Our population that we serve at ECU Pediatrics is largely a Medicaid population, some of our families are lower income,” Davis said. “We are different than a private practice in that we are more community based.”
Most families are receptive to receiving the book, Davis said. Care providers instruct the parents on how to read the book and discuss the amount of time they should invest in reading.
“We feel that it’s an asset to be able to give to some of our families who may not have the resources to pay for that resource for their children,” she said, adding that every child gets a book, no matter their income level.
The medical facility has books in the waiting room, sends children home with the books, and Davis said she also keeps books in her office to give to children. Sometimes the book she gives may be the only book the child has, Davis said.
Davis said reading to children, improves their cognitive skills, communication, motor skills and problem solving. The first 2,000 days of a child’s life are a crucial time for brain development, she said. Reading prepares a child so that when they start school they have a basic understanding of letters, sounds, how to read and turning pages in a book, Davis said.
Jessica Ogus received a book to take home on Wednesday during a checkup for her 21-month-old daughter. Ogus said she also is signed up to receive books from Imagination Library — which sends families age-appropriate books for every child in the mail once a month. She thinks it’s great that health care providers at ECU Pediatric stress the importance of reading and provide books.
“It reassures me that the reading I am doing is the right thing and it’s good for her and helping her grow mentally,” Ogus said. “Her mind and imagination is growing as a I read.”
Reading is a habit in the family’s home, she said.
“When I was little, I remember reading and it would take me away ... all different kinds of adventures,” Ogus said. “I think kids these days are so involved in technology that they don’t get read to enough. I try to read to her as much as I can.”
Taylor Gossett, an operations manager at Pirate Pediatrics, said that practice has been a part of the program since it opened in 2012. He said that as of December 2016, the office has distributed 7,391 books to patients.
Reach out and Read ships the books to the medical practices, and the books are distributed to children based on their age. The volumes from Imagination Library will stock the waiting rooms and provide additional books for distribution.
When parents take their child for a checkup, they fill out a developmental questionnaire and are taught that reading is a part of health and wellness, Roseann Henslee, pediatric nurse practitioner at Pediatric Pirates, said.
“It helps their development and the bonding between the parent and the child,” Gossett said. “It’s fun. The parents get excited. The kids get excited when they come in and you hand them that book.”