UHS Childhood Literacy Program
As the largest healthcare provider in the Southern Tier, UHS is committed to improving the health and wellbeing of the communities in which we serve. For children, an important component of wellness is being exposed to the world of books and reading from infancy. UHS is proud to announce our UHS Childhood Literacy Program. Our goal is to add yet another step in building strong children by incorporating books into pediatric care and encouraging families to read together. We will be providing books to children at each “well-baby” visit from birth 6 months old through age 5..
We are working with a national program called Reach Out and Read. The effectiveness of the Reach Out and Read model is recognized by the American Academy of Pediatrics, who recommends early literacy promotion as an essential component of pediatric care. Research shows that this approach results in more frequent reading at home, leading to accelerated vocabulary and development. Recognizing the importance of stimulating a rapidly developing brain in the first three to five years of life, gives us the best opportunity to influence a child’s future in this critical window of time. Children who hear fewer words during early childhood start school developmentally behind their peers and may never catch up.
The Reach Out and Read program was first brought to UHS Hospitals by Dr. Kate Holmes at UHS Primary Care Johnson City, introducing this as a program for Family Practice Residents under her supervision to bring into their medical education. “The parents love it, the kids love it, and the residents and staff are thrilled to be able to interact in such a positive way with our patients,” says Dr. Holmes. The children are so excited they get to choose a book and then take it home! The books are age and developmentally appropriate and are available in several languages.
Unknown to each other, Dr. Brenda Schlaen and Dr. Katarzyna Dudycz-Sulicz were interested in starting a reading program and were looking for ways to get it funded. They have now joined forces so that the entire UHS Primary Care and Pediatrics teams are engaged with a single program. UHS sees over 10,000 well-baby visits annually, so the reach of the program will be enormous! Dr. Dudycz-Sulicz represents UHS pediatricians who have long been advocating for the need to introduce such a reading program. She added “Developmental milestones we monitor in our youngest patients include being able to point to a picture, turn the page, finally name a picture in a book. Thanks to the generosity of UHS Foundation, we will no longer see a child who fails to meet these milestones simply because she has never had a book.”
Dr. Schlaen sees this as a “critical mission to get all of our young patients and their families to bring reading into their lives.” In addition, Barnes and Noble recognized UHS for these efforts and graciously named UHS as their charity of choice during the 2018 holiday season. Thanks to a generous participation from our local community, this resulted in over 400 books being added to the UHS ‘library’ for donation to our patients.
The program is being graciously funded by the UHS Foundation for the first year. “Early childhood literacy is critical in building a foundation of health and curiosity. We are delighted to be a part of providing the necessary building blocks for this program,” said Cory Jacobs, Executive Director of the UHS Foundation. “When families read aloud to their young children, they can give them a better start to life.” Thanks to the generosity of UHS Foundation, we will no longer see a child who fails to meet these milestones simply because she has never had a book.