“Can I keep it?”
I cannot count how many times I have heard these four words while brandishing a Reach Out and Read book and handing it to one of my little patients. “Really?”, is always the next question they ask, astonished that their doctor is giving them a brand new book for them to take home.
I tell my patients that they can take it home, and that it is very important that they share this book with their parent(s) or older sibling whose job it is to read to them on a daily basis. The inevitable large toothy smile comes next as the little 2, 3, or 4-year-old starts flipping through the book, wide-eyed at the unfamiliar images and words that flow from the book.
This daily exchange is both heartwarming and heart wrenching. The gift of reading and the anticipatory guidance that we give to our families about daily reading have been proven time and again to improve early literacy skills in children participating in Reach Out and Read. The grins of dozens of children that receive books, makes every day that I practice pediatrics, a rewarding one. The astonished looks, the toothy smiles, the sideways glances children give their caregivers as they are promised a new book to take home, belie the literacy poor environments where most of my smallest patients reside.
So I give out books to all my patients, making a small, but extremely meaningful statement of hope and belief.
“Can I keep it?” Yes, you can. Yes, you can.
Daniel R. Taylor, D.O., FAAP
Assistant Professor Drexel University College of Medicine
Director Community Pediatrics and Child Advocacy
City Administrator Cap4Kids www.cap4kids.org/philadelphia
St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children
Philadelphia, PA 19134