The Hilo Medical Center Pediatric Clinic recognizes that children’s well-being involves a healthy body and a love for reading.
In June 2012, the clinic joined the Reach Out and Read Program, a nationwide program consisting of more than 4,946 participating doctor’s offices that are preparing America’s youngest children to succeed in school.
“We believe the portion of time dedicated to promoting the benefits of reading during patient visits is time well spent for both the families and doctors,” said Boyd Murayama, HMC assistant hospital administrator and medical group practice director.
The clinic physicians, Tamara Todd and Rick Penland, and their staff have made encouraging reading and giving out books a routine part of regular checkups for their youngest patients.
“The importance of reading aloud to children is something we discuss with every parent during well child visits to the clinic,” Todd said. “Along with providing books, we encourage parents and caregivers to read to their young children. Teaching children to love books from an early age stimulates their language and cognitive skills, and helps improve their school-readiness. Reading sets children up for a better future.”
Since June 2012, the HMC Pediatric Clinic has given away more than 1,000 developmentally appropriate books to children from 6 months to 5 years old.
“The goal of this program is to help children enter kindergarten with larger vocabularies and stronger language skills, and be better prepared to achieve their potential,” Penland said.
Children keep the books they receive from the clinic and may have 10 books by the time they start kindergarten.
Todd and Penland introduce a new book at the beginning of the child’s visit and often use it to assess developmental milestones and demonstrate to parents how to interest the child in a book.
Todd emphasizes the importance of this by recalling one mother who said her 6-month old had lots of books at home but she never read to him because he chewed on the board books. “Introducing a book gave me the opportunity to talk about the fact that this is a normal developmental milestone in terms of learning about books,” she said.
“I loved reading from an early age and still do,” Todd said. “It’s one of my favorite things to do. I love to take six or eight books on vacation and just read, read, read. I used to go to bed early and stay up late reading from the time I was in middle school all the way through high school,” she says, recalling her favorites were the Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
According to Reach Out and Read, research shows that literacy-promoting interventions by medical providers who care for children have a significant effect on parental behaviors, beliefs and attitudes toward reading aloud.
“We are very pleased to help encourage reading with the Reach Out and Read program,” said Lori Rogers, executive director of the Hilo Medical Center Foundation.
Donations of books in new condition are welcome along with monetary donations for the purchase of books from a discounted source. Donations may be made to the Hilo Medical Center Foundation, 808-935-2957 or www.hilomedicalcenterfoundation.org.