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Building Bonds, With Books

Bright, beautiful new books abound at one of Reach Out and Read Greater Philadelphia’s (RORGP) newest sites! Less than a year out from completing her residency at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), pediatrician Christina DiNicola, M.D., FAAP, opened a new ROR program at South Philadelphia Pediatrics. The program was kicked off in March 2007 and is the first ever ROR program at South Philadelphia Pediatrics.

“We see some of the most at-risk children in Philadelphia, and our families have some of the poorest literacy skills in the City. When I took this pediatric position at South Philadelphia Pediatrics fresh out of residency at CHOP in July 2006, one of my first priorities was to create a new ROR program at our office. Throughout residency at CHOP I gave children at my continuity clinic ROR books – I couldn’t imagine not continuing this fantastic and worthwhile tradition in my current practice.”

The first child to receive a ROR book at South Philadelphia Pediatrics was London Cooper, an adorable 6-month-old girl. When London came to the office, Dr. DiNicola could see a wonderful bond developing between London and her mother, Ms. Aliya Mungin. At the visit, Ms. Mungin mentioned how she would cuddle up to London and they would watch TV together in bed. The thought to read to her baby had never occurred to this young, first-time, single mom, though it was clear to Dr. DiNicola how much she adored her baby. Dr. DiNicola immediately introduced London and her mom to Reach Out and Read. London’s mom now reads to her little girl daily. Says London’s mom, “London and I read together all the time now since Dr. DiNicola told us about how important reading was. We love getting these new books! It really makes a difference to my baby. London is so happy when she gets one of these nice new books. She loves holding them and turning the pages. I even went out to A.C. Moore and bought an unfinished bookshelf to store all her books. It’s unfinished, but I’m painting it!”

At South Philadelphia Pediatrics, four dedicated pediatricians and two tireless nurse practitioners speak to their patients about reading and the importance and effectiveness of early literacy. Their anticipatory guidance and modeling of reading skills is making an important difference in the lives of the South Philadelphia families they serve.

In addition, Dr. DiNicola and her colleagues are improving the literacy environments of their Cambodian, Vietnamese, Chinese, and Spanish-speaking families by offering them bilingual books. She says, “The first time I handed out a Cambodian book, I had a father wipe away some tears. At first I couldn’t understand his reaction, but he then thanked me graciously and said that it was the first time he had seen his native language in print since he had immigrated to the United States. The excitement in his eyes was unforgettable.

His 4-year-old child immediately began pointing at pictures in the book and giving both the English and Cambodian words for what he saw to his non-English speaking grandmother. For me, it was a very positive moment as a pediatrician.” According to Dr. DiNicola, “Our providers delight in giving ROR books to our young patients. It’s one of the best feelings in the world to see a child’s face light up at the sight of a book. We hope to keep our ROR program alive for years to come.”