Reading routines linked to healthy child development
UF Health physicians promote early literacy with a national nonprofit, Reach Out and Read.
Reading books can open up a new world for children, allowing them to develop and expand their knowledge, use their imagination and be creative. Parents who read to their children are nurturing relationships and preparing them to be successful in school.
UF Health recognizes the important link between literacy and child development. Three practices are currently participating in book giveaways for their patients. Primary care providers at UF Health Family Medicine and Pediatrics – Elizabeth G. Means Center, UF Health Family Medicine – Lem Turner and UF Health Pediatrics – San Jose integrate books into their well-child visits through the national nonprofit Reach Out and Read.
Early reading benefits
According to Reach Out and Read, reading together promotes healthy brain development, furthers language acquisition and helps families build meaningful bonds. Children 6 months to 5 years old receive free, age-appropriate books at each well-child visit. The books are educational, multicultural and available in English or Spanish. Providers model book interaction by showing parents how to hold books so children can follow along and establish reading routines.
Ross Jones, MD, MPH, medical director at the E.G. Means Center, learned about Reach Out and Read during his residency. The location has offered the program since 2016, and Jones and his team have witnessed the impact reading makes in healthy child development. They have given away more than 1,500 books and, through community donations, have also given books to older children.
“The response has been overwhelmingly positive with both parents and children looking forward to receiving the books,” Jones said. “We ask questions about the book to see if the child understands colors, letters and numbers. It’s a great resource for helping us determine whether a child is meeting developmental milestones.”
Set up for success
Health care providers set up their practices to be literacy friendly by hanging colorful posters and pictures, and may create reading rooms for children to enjoy while waiting to see their provider. Books are paid for through grants, clinic funds and donations, as well as providers purchasing books with their own funds.
A 2014 American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement recommended pediatric providers advise parents of young children that reading aloud and talking about pictures and words in age-appropriate books can strengthen language skills, literacy development and patient-child relationships.
In 2018, Pamela Lindor, MD, medical director, implemented the program at her practice, UF Health Pediatrics – San Jose. She and her team help parents determine what books are developmentally appropriate for their child.
“We’ll give a 6-month-old a thick, sturdy, paperboard book. It’s normal for them to chew on the edges, and we advise parents that this is to be expected,” Lindor said.
For older children, Lindor asks questions before giving them a book to read. Lindor asks each child if they like books. Some say yes, but if there is hesitation, she shares suggestions with parents on how they can use the books most effectively.
Daidre Azueta, MD, MPH, medical director at UF Health Family Medicine – Lem Turner, and her team have offered Reach Out and Read for a year and have given away 300 books.
“A lot of patients have not been exposed to books at home. It’s an important way to incorporate literacy promotion into well-child care,” Azueta said.
Learn more at ReachOutAndRead.org and visit UFJaxPrimaryCare.org to make an appointment at a UF Health family medicine and pediatric practice near you.