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CHCHC reaches out to children to support literacy

Wednesday was a special day at the Charles Henderson Child Health Center as the staff, young children and their parents participated in Reach Out and Read-Alabama, a program of the Alabama Chapter-American Academy of Pediatrics.

The Reach Out and Read program gives young children a foundation for success by incorporating books into pediatric care and encouraging families to read together.

Dr. Elizabeth Dawson, CHCHC medical director, said she and the CHCHC staff are proud to be able to host Reach Out and Read Day in a somewhat more personal way this year.

“Last year, because of COVID-19, Reach Out and Read was all virtual,” Dawson said. “Although, this year, we aren’t able to have the different fun activities for the children and are not able to read to them, we are proud they can be here to receive a book to take home and other items that promote literacy.”

Rosemary Hanson, CHCHC Reach Out and Read coordinator, said the best opportunity to influence a child’s future is in the first five years. Children who hear fewer words during early childhood start school developmentally behind, she said.

“Families that read aloud to their young children give them a better start in life,” Hanson said. “The book that the children, who participate in Reach Out and Read here at CHCHC, were given this year is ‘Leo Gets a Checkup.’”

Hanson said when Leo’s dad takes him to visit the doctor, he learns to wait his turn, sit quietly when his eyes and ears are checked and be brave during a shot. Leo gets a sticker and a new book before he leaves. 

CHCHC gives books to children at more than 10 well-child visits from infancy until they start school and families are encouraged to read aloud with their young children.

Teresa Kidd, East Central Mental Health, agreed that reading aloud to young children gives them a better start in life.

“Parents are encouraged to read aloud to their young children,” she said. ‘Seeing and hearing their parents read is encouragement for them to read as they get older.”

And, hopes are that young children will follow the example of Leo and be good patients when they visit the CHCHC.