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NC Pediatricians Offer Medical Help – and Literacy

February 29, 2012

NAGS HEAD, N.C. - A growing number of pediatricians across North Carolina are adding one more tool to their doctor's bag: A children's book.

It's part of a national program called "Reach Out and Read." The organization collects children's books and works with selected pediatricians to distribute them during children's check-up visits. The program has been able to expand recently with a grant from the North Carolina Partnership for Children.

Surf Pediatrics in Nags Head just began participating in the program, says Kellie Flock, a physician's assistant there.

"In some families, it's the first book they've received for their kids, and so they're not used to reading to them. Not only are they extremely thankful, but they're also curious as to what they should be doing with these books."

Doctors also are able to use the books as a means to evaluate the child's development during the visit. Carla Heppert, an early-learning coordinator at the Children and Youth Partnership in Dare County, says hearing about the importance of reading from a doctor can make all the difference to young families.

"Early literacy has proven to be crucial. It's important for pediatricians to be giving the book and the guidance, because people are more likely to listen to them - because they are so trusted."

Reach Out and Read targets pediatric practices where there are a significant number of families living in poverty. The program is based on the belief that reading to children as young as 6 months helps build literacy and learning skills that last a lifetime. The program reaches 124,000 children across about two-thirds of North Carolina.

A list of participating Reach Out and Read clinics is online at reachoutandread.org.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - NC