If you’re a regular reader of the Evanston Roundtable then this title probably caught your eye this month: Evanston is in the Midst of a Reading ‘Crisis’ says ETHS. The piece goes on to describe how the number of incoming freshmen who require reading intervention has more than doubled since 2011, and that number isn’t going down. It’s going up. And up. And up.
As a library we’re crazy about reading but this isn’t the kind of thing you can just leave to your schoolteachers or your faithful children’s and teen librarians. This situation requires all hands on deck.
Which brings us to the pediatricians.
A little background. Lo these many years ago I was attending an Eric Carle Museum Awards Gala. Did you know that there’s a museum out there in Amherst that’s entirely dedicated to children’s book art and illustration? There sure is. The Eric Carle Museum is a beauty, nestled in an old apple orchard, displaying magnificent art from a range of different talents both old and new. Each year they host this killer gala in New York City where they fete their donors, fans, and Honor folks in four different categories. Artist, Angel, Mentor, and Bridge.
In 2014 the year‘s “Angel” honorees were Brian Gallagher and Perri Klass, representatives from a little organization called Reach Out and Read. Reach Out and Read is rather unique. It’s a program established in thousands of pediatric exam rooms nationwide. Because here’s the thing: You can offer free books through a library all you want, but it doesn’t always occur to new parents that babies should be read to. Someone needs to tell them and who better than a doctor? After all, even the American Academy of Pediatrics has declared that all pediatricians should make an effort to, “encourage parents to read aloud with their children, beginning at infancy and continuing through age 5.”
To learn a little more about what precisely these books in pediatrician offices do, I direct you to a recent article in the Evanston Roundtable called Erie Family Health Center Helps Build Young Minds Through Reach Out and Read Program. Yes indeed, one of our very own pediatric offices participate in the Reach Out and Read Program. And here is what, for me, was the really cool part of the article:
“The program is built into ‘well-child’ visits. At each well-child visit, doctors or nurse practitioners give a developmentally appropriate book to the parent or child to take home, and they explain to parents why it is important to read aloud to the infant or child and explain how the parent may interact with the child while reading the book. As children get older, they may be allowed to choose a book from a small selection of books.”
As you might imagine, that’s a lot of books. Sadly, Erie was “short by about 2,500 books just for the 0-5 age group” in 2015.
What can you do? At the end of the article this was posted:
“How to Donate Books or Money for Books
Anyone who is interested in making a donation to support the Reach Out and Read program at Erie Evanston/Skokie Health Center may send a check payable to “Erie Family Health Center” with “Evanston/Skokie ROR” in the memo line to: Erie Family Health Center, attn.: Development Office, 1701 W. Superior Street, 3rd FL, Chicago, IL 60622. Or, donate online at eriefamilyhealth.org/support-erie. On the donation form, choose “Designation: Other” and fill in “For Evanston/Skokie ROR.” Erie’s clinic in Evanston also accepts donations of new and gently used books, which may be dropped off at the front desk of Erie Family Health Center, 1285 Hartrey Ave., Evanston.”
So there you go! You could actually help some kid read. Now notice that they say they will accept “new and gently used books” so PLEASE be sure to donate only titles in good condition. Your board books with their gnawed corners or old picture books with torn and yellowed pages may have great stories inside but these kids deserve nice, new, beautiful books of their very own. So give ’em something gorgeous! It’s worth it.