Oregon pediatricians promote literacy for patients

CORVALLIS — How excited was 15-month-old Estella Horvath about receiving a new book on Wednesday morning?

So excited that she wouldn't let the book, "Do You See Shapes?" out of her sight. In fact, she got a little fussy when she didn't have it in her hands.

"Do you want to sit down and read your book?" asked Estella's mother, Toni Horvath.

Estella grabbed the book from her mother and shrieked with joy as she stared at the brightly colored shapes on the pages.

Estella and her twin sister, Brianna, each received a free book during their recent visit to Samaritan Pediatrics. The books were provided through a new program at the clinic, Reach Out and Read.

Reach Out and Read is a nationwide literacy program that prepares children aged 6 months through 5 years to succeed in school. The program partners with pediatricians to provide age-appropriate books to children and encourage families to read together.

Children receive a free book during each of their well-child exams at Samaritan Pediatrics, so they can receive up to nine books from the time they are 6 months until they turn 5. Bilingual books and multi-language books are available. Each book contains a "prescription slip" that reminds parents to read to their children daily.

"Some families might not have a lot of books in their homes," said Samaritan Pediatrics clinic manager Mara McManus. "This could help them build their collection, which hopefully will encourage them to read more."

The Reach Out and Read program started at Samaritan Pediatrics in November. A $5,000 grant from Women Investing in Samaritan Health helps pay for the books. Last month, 170 books were given to children during their visits.

Clarrissa Young, a certified medical assistant at Samaritan Pediatrics, usually gives children their books and talks to their families about the importance of reading together. She said the program has been well received, and she enjoys seeing the children's reactions when they receive books.

"The kids love getting new books," Young said. "The parents have commented on how much they appreciate the program."

Another part of Reach Out and Read includes having volunteers read to children while they are in the waiting room. Currently, Samaritan Pediatrics has a reading volunteer once a week. However, McManus said she hopes she can get volunteers to read three days of the week.

"I think the reading volunteers can help parents learn to read better to their children," McManus said. "This program benefits everybody."

Back in the examination room, Estella continued to clutch her book tightly even though she wasn't looking at it. Meanwhile, Brianna was pacing around, waiting for the doctor to arrive.

"Pediatricians are at the forefront of early childhood development," said the girls' father, Brandon Horvath. "But to have them promoting reading and literacy isn't something you see every day. I think it's great."

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