HENDERSON – Members of the Vance County Community Foundation Board of Directors recently paid a site visit to Smart Start to learn more about its Reach Out and Read program. The Board gave a grant to help fund this program and wanted to see first-hand how Reach Out and Read, a new reading program, is working.

Director Gary Daeke gave a tour to the Board members and gave more information about how the program is structured. Reach Out and Read is offered through four Smart Start offices in the area. With cooperation from area pediatricians, a free children’s book is given at the well-child check-up beginning at 6 months and going through to 5 years. Each time, the doctor hands a book to the child and talks to the parent about the importance of reading.

Initial feedback from the pediatricians and the parents has been overwhelmingly positive. “We’re immunizing against illiteracy,” said Daeke. “Through this program, the relationship between the pediatrician and the parent is strengthened, and you can’t put a dollar figure on the value of having the child’s doctor and the parent talking to each other.”

The program is evidence-based and is working well in other parts of the country as well. Adult literacy programs have also started in areas where Reach Out and Read is based, so that whole families are strengthened.

In Henderson, volunteers can come in to pediatricians’ waiting rooms and read to the children waiting to be seen, as well as their siblings. The volunteers can work in 30-minute shifts. For more information, contact Michelle Campbell at Smart Start at 252-226-4258.

After thanking Daeke and his staff, the Board members visited Henderson Pediatric Center and saw the Reach Out and Read reading space in its well-child waiting room.

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