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A Book of Their Own

A Book of Their Own

I often remind people that if children aren’t reading at grade-level by fourth grade they never catch up.

Tami Chevalier
"Out of 100 students entering third grade, 14 of them still read at a kindergarten level, 15 at a first-grade level ..." according to readingfoundation.org.

“I often remind people that if children aren’t reading at grade-level by fourth grade they never catch up,” says Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s (CHaD) family support specialist in Manchester, Tami Chevalier.

Chevalier coordinates CHaD’s Manchester Reach Out and Read program as part of the national organization that has advocated for childhood literacy since 1989. The program is also offered at CHaD Lebanon, Heater Road and Keene locations. Looking at child development—specifically reading abilities when entering school— Reach Out and Read found that 96 percent of children see a pediatrician. Therefore, the organization determined that doctor visits would be the most effective way of reaching the greatest number of children and improving literacy rates.

A Book for Every Child

“Reach Out and Read focused on kids from 6 months to 5 years, and each time a child came in for their wellness visit they are given a brand new developmentally-appropriate book,” says Chevalier. In the D-H Manchester area, that comes to approximately 700 wellness visits a month, amounting to an average of over 5,000 books each year from 2011 through 2013. Through March of 2014 over 1,000 books had already been distributed.

Although the national Reach Out and Read program stops at age 5, CHaD has a continuum explains Chevalier: “We have providers in our organization that give books all the way through high school, and who let the older children choose the books themselves.”

Gather ‘round

To encourage and model behavior, D-H volunteers often hold a reading circle in waiting rooms. “It’s just another opportunity for children to be read to, while also decreasing their anxiety. Some older children say they don’t want to be read to but would like to read to the group, so we let them. More importantly, it’s a chance for parents see the joy the child has being read to or reading, so adults are more likely to go home and do the same.”

The 100 percent philanthropy-funded program has been made possible by the generosity of donors and sponsors. “We’re always grateful for book donations, and place used books in our waiting areas and examine rooms, and save the new books for wellness visits.”

Chevalier knows the value the program brings to CHaD patients and families. “Our parents love it. In our feedback, when parents rate their office visits, we see a lot about how ‘my child loves your book program!’ Our providers love it too, and all of them are on board, so anywhere there are pediatric visits we make books available. We’ve had a shift due to this positive program, so instead of children focusing on ‘am I getting a shot today?’ they are asking ‘am I getting a book today?’”

One family’s experience of Reach Out and Read …

“Dr. Plourde,

I just wanted to say “thank you" again for the book we received at Cosimo's well visit … "Fish Kisses: a Bedtime Story" by Marianne Richmond.

The ‘big kids’, Anna & Rocco, have selected this book EVERY NIGHT since we received it. We act out what the animals do, "Fishes kiss. Puppies nuzzle. Gorillas hug. Polar bears cuddle. Lobsters pinch. Bunnies wriggle. Butterflies smooch. Piglets snortle. Alligators snap. Caterpillars tickle." Then at the end of the book, it prompts the child to select which one of those actions they would like to do to say goodnight. So we get lots of giggles, hugs & kisses when we read this book each night. Thank you again for being you & doing what you do! And to the people behind the scenes who work to make the book program a success!

April V.”