By Savannah Koplon
It has long been known that the benefits of reading to children are important. Starting from birth to age 3, reading fulfills a critical part of brain development and helps with communication skills, understanding, cognition and literacy. Pediatricians express that what happens in the first few years of a child’s life sets the tone for his or her future, and reading daily to children can cement a strong foundation.
That is why the University of Alabama at Birmingham Pediatrics Primary Care Clinic is a proud site of Reach Out and Read, a national nonprofit that champions the positive effects of reading daily and engaging in other language-rich activities with young children. Pediatricians at UAB are committed to making reading a part of a child’s daily routine and helping provide the tools that make that a reality for all families.
“Many of the families and patients we see at the Primary Care Clinic do not have books at home, so this is a great way for us to help families build a library of their own,” said Candice Dye, M.D., pediatrician at UAB’s Pediatrics Primary Care Clinic. “This inclusivity gives children a sense of pride and ownership while also fostering good habits that we know can help set them up for academic and cognitive success.”
At routine well-child visits, UAB PCC staff give each child a developmentally appropriate book to take home with them, sharing the power of reading with families of all backgrounds and economic means. During visits, physicians also talk with parents about the benefits of reading aloud and sharing books with their young children beginning at birth, and continuing through their elementary school years. Through this interaction, families gain a deeper understanding of why they should make reading a daily routine.
While UAB’s PCC receives some book donations from Reach Out and Read, many of the books they are able to give to children are from community donations. PCC staff ensures that any and every child can take home a special book of their own, even sometimes giving siblings who are in attendance a book as well.
“Often when families age out of certain books, they don’t think that there is a purpose for them anymore; but donating books gives them another life,” Dye explained. “Both new and gently used books mean the world to many of the children we see in our clinic and may be one of the only books they get to call their own.”
Dye also explains that many people think only infants and young children are in need of books, but elementary school-age children and teenagers are often overlooked and also need books for their continued development and growth of knowledge. Additionally, these age groups benefit from books of their own and continue to foster a love of reading that translates into success in school and in their daily lives.
Those interested in donating new or gently used books can deliver them to the front desk of UAB’s Pediatrics Primary Care Clinic, located at 1601 Fourth Ave. South, Birmingham, AL 35233.