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Reach Out and Read’s new breed of advocates

How fantastic, I thought, that the Los Angeles chapter of the Reach Out and Read intitiative has its very own Medical Director, whose role is to help co-ordinate organisational plans, outreach goals and provider training. Just as impressive was this Medical Director’s commitment to the importance of critical literacy and reading development, which was made evident in an interview with Earl Martin Phalen, CEO of Reach Out and Read, and Founder of Summer Advantage USA.

35-year-old pediatrician Dr Katie Swec was awarded the Medical Director role back in April. She has firm and passionate views about the benefits of reading, and advocates shared reading activities between children and parents/caregivers, with the view that children who are successful in reading ‘are going to be successful in school — and eventually in life’.

Introduced to the program in 2006, as an active-duty pediatrician at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego, Swec was invited by her department to apply to become a Reach Out and Read volunteer. And it didn’t take her long to get into it. So impressed was she, that she offered her services at both the main Naval Medical Center Clinic and at a satellite location.

Traditionally, early literacy has been the domain of educators and librarians, but this new breed of pediatricians like Swec are showing that books are just as vital to pediatric care as the thermometer and stethoscope. Reach Out and Read has a range of guides and resources that help doctors to evaluate a child’s development and introduce suitable reading material into families where levels of literacy may be below average.

As you might expect, Swec has firm views about how critical it is that parents read to their children, and also of parents ‘modelling’ reading – that is, being seen reading by their children.

Asked about the reading rituals in her own home, and how she encourages her own daughter to spend time with books, she said:

“My daughter loves to read. I started reading to her as a young infant before naps and bedtime — and throughout the day. I also had baskets of books on the floor for her within reach. Now as an older toddler, she has her own bookshelf! We also have books for her in the car, and she loves story time at the library.”

It just goes to show that the tried and tested techniques for getting kids into reading are still the best.

One Response to Reach Out and Read’s new breed of advocates

  1. Swec: My daughter loves to read. I started reading to her as a young infant before naps and bedtime — and throughout the day. I also had baskets of books on the floor for her within reach. Now as an older toddler, she has her own bookshelf! We also have books for her in the car, and she loves story time at the library.

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