UT Pediatric Reading Program Awarded 7,000 Books

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First Book, a national non-profit in Washington, DC, recently selected UT as the recipient of 7,000 books for its Reach Out and Read program.

First Book, a national non-profit in Washington, DC, recently selected the University of Tennessee as the recipient of 7,000 books for its Reach Out and Read (ROR) program. The books were distributed through First Book’s National Book Bank.

Reach Out and Read trains doctors and nurses to advise parents on the importance of reading aloud and to give books to children at pediatric check-ups from six months to five years of age, with a special focus on children growing up in poverty. Pediatric research reveals an association between pediatric literacy promotion and improvements in preschool language.

“We have experimental evidence that this program changes lives,” said Andy Spooner, MD, UT associate professor of pediatrics.

In fact, this program has proven to be so effective that when Lien Russell, MD, ROR medical director and UT assistant professor, learned of the award, she and her husband rented a U-Haul and drove to St. Louis to pick up the much needed donation.

“Our program was fortunate to be selected for such an enormous contribution, and I wanted to get the books here as quickly and as cost effectively as possible,” Dr. Russell said. “This donation allows us to nearly double our efforts to date.”

Dr. Spooner commented, “When the child’s physician encourages parents to read to their children, then hands them a book to read, they do it. This isn’t just a touchy-feely nice thing to do; this program will measurably improve reading readiness.”

Drs. Russell and Spooner, both UT Health Science Center faculty, led the effort to establish a Reach Out and Read program at the UT Medical Group, Inc. pediatric clinic in April 2002. Since then, 4,000 books have been distributed to local children who, for economic reasons, have little or no access to books.

Reach Out and Read is a national program, which began in 1989 as a collaboration between pediatricians and early childhood educators at Boston City Hospital (now Boston Medical Center).

First Book is an award-winning, non-profit children’s literacy organization. Since its inception, First Book has provided nearly 30 million new books to children from low-income families. For more information about First Book, visit www.firstbook.org.