Writing a prescription to parents of young children to read aloud every day is the new practice at St. Luke’s Clinics – Payette Lakes Family Medicine.
For the past two months, young families visiting the clinic have left appointments with “Curious George,” “Peek-A-Boo,” “Goodnight Moon” and other popular children’s books.
Each child, six months to five years of age, receives a book during their well-child visit.
The books are developmentally appropriate, and based on the number of family visits to the clinic, by the time some of the children enter kindergarten St. Luke’s will have helped them build their own little libraries of eight to 10 new books.
Providers expect to distribute more than 500 books annually during doctor visits. The books are available in both English and Spanish.
Dr. Mo Ferguson was instrumental in bringing the Reach Out and Read program to the clinic. Reach Out and Read was founded in 1989. Currently there are nearly 5,000 program sites nationwide that distribute 6.5 million books to children every year.
The clinic became a designated site this fall when Dr. Ferguson worked with colleagues to gain support for the program. In order to be accepted as a designated Reach Out and Read site, all eight family medicine doctors were required to complete online training and make the commitment to promote early literacy into their pediatric practice.
“It was a hands-down ‘yes’ from all the doctors,” Dr. Ferguson said.
Both Drs. Ferguson and Patrick Kinney had experience with the program during their residencies at Family Medicine Residency of Idaho in Boise, and saw the value the program brings to kids and families. Research has shown that incorporating reading into a physician’s practice aids in equipping parents with tools and knowledge to ensure that their children are prepared to learn when they start school.
“What I love about this program is that it’s evidence-based and proven to aid in children’s development of early reading skills,” Dr. Ferguson said.
Studies also show Reach Out and Read families read together more often, and their children enter kindergarten with larger vocabularies and stronger language skills. During the preschool years, children served by the program score three to six months ahead of their non-Reach Out and Read peers on vocabulary tests.
“Once everyone was on board to integrate the program into our practice, we had to figure out how to pay for the books,” Dr. Ferguson said. “That’s where our Foundation came in.”
Jenny Ruemmele, St. Luke’s McCall Foundation director, was able to connect with a donor who had started a similar book and reading program for kids suffering from cancer. The donor agreed to help sponsor the program and funds were used to buy an initial supply of 700 books.
Laura Crawford works in the Communications and Marketing department at St. Luke's.