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Reach Out and Read kicks off virtually

By Lauren Johnson

Reach Out and Read-Alabama held its 11th annual summer campaign virtually last Friday. This national program allows medical providers to give out books as well as talk about interactions and bonding through reading at each checkup visit for patients between 6 months and 5 years old.

Several guest speakers from around the state participated in this virtual event, including Polly McCure who directs the ROR program, Betsy Prince from the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services, Dr. Elizabeth Dawson the Medical Director and Pediatrician at Charles Henderson Child Health Center and founder and president of Troy Resilience Project, and Clayne Crawford who acted in the movie Lethal Weapon.

This year the featured book for the summer reading program was Pete the Cat and His Magic Sunglasses, which was read by Clayne Crawford.

This book promotes positive thinking, which Dawson believes is very important in these uncertain times.

“I love that it will give kids and parents a chance to feel a little brighter while promoting literacy and relationship,” she said.

During the virtual event, these speakers talked about the importance of early intervention and reading and about community connections and the importance of the ROR program for patients, especially over the summer when people have less access to books.

“I talked about the importance of resilience and how the Reach Out and Read program promotes resilience,” Dawson said.

Dawson has participated in ROR since 2008 when she moved to Troy to work at Charles Henderson Child Health Center. “I found the program to be an essential and favorite part of our well-child visits from 6 months to 5 years,” she said.

Dawson explained that ROR allows clinicians to talk about and demonstrate the power of books and reading for children and their families.

“Reading is crucial for early literacy and promoting resilience and bonding between adults and the children they care for,” Dawson said.

In late 2018, Dawson started working on a group, which is now called Troy Resilience Project.

“This project is a community group dedicated to forming a trauma informed community and works to reverse the effects of toxic stress and break the cycle of violence and adversity as well as to promote resilience,” she said.

ROR is one powerful tool that medical providers can give to help promote this healthy relationship and build resilience.

“I am a big supporter of ROR because it helps kids and families and supplies medical providers with opportunities to talk about reading and bonding while providing the tool (a book) to do so,” Dawson said.

Dawson was excited to share ROR’s impact on the families she works with and how it ties into her work with Troy Resilience Project. She explained that she is also looking forward to sharing the book Pete the Cat and His Magic Sunglasses with her clinic.

To re-watch the virtual event, go to the Reach Out and Read Alabama website.