Fall 2011 Gift of Health Report
Group Health Pediatricians Prescribe Good Books
"We're going to the doctor to get a book!" That's how Evan Solomon's mom signals it's time for Evan's annual well-child visit. Sure, he'll get an eye exam and immunizations, but the big news is that he's going to get a brand new book from the doctor's well-stocked bookshelf. Evan is a patient at Group Health Northgate Medical Center, one of the medical clinics that partners with Reach Out and Read, a national, nonprofit organization devoted to promoting early literacy. Adults may not immediately make the connection between health care and reading, but to Evan, a first-grader and a new reader, it makes perfect sense. He's been getting books from his doctor for as long as he can remember.
"Reading aloud fosters an important love affair with reading." Frederick Kassab, MD
Evan is seated in a restaurant talking about his most recent acquisition, a book called "Franklin's New Friend," when a printed sign over the counter catches his eye: "Orders to go!" he says, with pride.
According to Reach Out and Read, reading aloud with young children is the single most effective tool for developing language and literacy skills that translate to academic performance, professional success, social ease, and general well-being. That's why our clinicians emphasize reading even as they prevent disease and set broken bones. "Reading aloud helps children start recognizing words as language," explains Dr. Fred Kassab, a Group Health pediatrician. "It suggests that symbols come together to make words, it helps them learn letters and pronunciation, it encourages bonding between parent and child. Eventually it fosters an important love affair with reading."
Evan's mother, Tina, notices that as Evan learns to read, his borders are stretching: "The world is opening up to him," she says. "Evan is excited about reading."
"Sometimes other docs are surprised that we're handing out books to our patients," says Dr. Kassab. "But for us, it's just part of the well-child visit. We always talk with kids and their parents about what they're reading. Promoting literacy has gotten to be part of our psyche."