At Mercy Suburban Hospital Family Practice Center in Norristown, young patients can expect the usual: height, weight, a check of the eyes and ears and yes, probably a shot or two. But thanks to Dr. Michael Becker and a dedicated staff, the children visiting this office will get something more: a literacy-rich experience.
One of our 42 Reach Out and Read Greater Philadelphia Programs, the Mercy Suburban Family Practice Center provides at-risk young children with new, developmentally-appropriate books, and advises parents on how to raise confident, happy readers.
“The point,” says Dr. Becker, “is to make reading a fundamental part of a child’s standard health care by introducing reading as a pleasurable family activity.”
Inspired by the impact ROR made on families, Dr. Becker’s medical students Katherine McKenzie, Dawn Hagley and Ashley Martin took the ROR program one step further: They painted the center’s exam rooms with murals inspired by the books and characters of Dr. Seuss. The result? Now characters such as “Cat in the Hat”, “Thing 1″ and “Thing 2″, help transform a routine doctor’s appointment visit – even the all-too-familiar waiting time — into a literacy-filled experience.
Today, Dr. Becker is the Vice Chairman of Family Medicine at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM). For him, the impact of those early days of ROR at Mercy Suburban remains poignant: “I’d give the book at the beginning of the exam, leave the room to get something and when I’d return, the mother or father would be totally involved with their child looking at the book. That is the true goal of the program: to encourage parents to read to their children and inspire a lifetime love of books and reading.”
“The doctor’s office is a unique opportunity to bring reading into a child’s life,” said Dr. Kristen Kucharczuk, Associate Medical Director of Reach Out and Read Greater Philadelphia. “Thanks to Dr. Becker and his team, the Mercy Suburban Hospital Family Practice Center is a showcase for making literacy part of a child’s healthcare.”