Reading Program Reaches Out to Military Families
(April 15, 2009)
Air Force Capt. (Dr.) Minh-Thu Le interacts with
her patient, 8-month-old Alexander, as he
performs the common newborn ritual of “mouthing
the book.” Alexander's parents, Air Force 1st
Lt. Alice L. Shepard and her husband, Steven,
happily look on at Travis Air Force Base, CA.
||WASHINGTON, April 9, 2009
– Anyone from the Saturday morning cartoon
generation knows that “reading is fundamental.”
Now, young military children
will get their own version of that message
through Reach Out and Read's new military pilot
Through the program's military initiative,
doctors and nurses at 20 military hospitals,
including one in Germany, soon will receive
training on how to promote early literacy for
children. They also will be provided with free
books to present to parents with children ages 6
months to 5 years when they bring their children
in for wellness checkups.
“Reading aloud to a young child every day is a
wonderful way to stimulate language,” said Dr.
Perri Klass, medical director of Reach Out and
Read. “It helps children love books and reading,
because they associate books with the
parent's voice and with the pleasures of
“That's the advice military doctors and
nurses will be giving to the parents of their young patients
at every checkup -- important advice for all parents to help
their children learn language and enjoy books,” she added.
Reading aloud not only helps children feel secure and loved,
but also can help families face stressful situations, Klass
said. That's especially true of military families, who often
“I love to read and hope to instill a love of reading,” said
Air Force 1st Lt. Alice L. Shepard, a clinical pediatric
nurse at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., and mother to an
8-month-old son. “Even before he was born we read to him,
and some of the first things I bought when making his
nursery were books.”
Shepard, who is scheduled to deploy next year, said she is
glad to know that in addition to Reach Out and Read's wide
selection of “doctor-recommended” children's books, some
titles have been chosen especially for military children.
One, “While You Were Away,” by Eileen Spinelli, was very
comforting, she said.
“I read Spinelli's book and found it very touching. It
brought tears to my eyes, because it was so accurate,”
Shpard said. “As a mother of a very young child, I worry
that he will not remember who I am when I return. I think
this book could give him a sense of what I am doing over
State coalition groups will visit the 20 hospitals to train
doctors on how to counsel parents about the benefits of
reading to their children, said Barbara Christine, program
manager for Library Programs at the Army Family and Morale
Welfare and Recreation Command.
Because Reach Out and Read has already researched the
age-appropriateness of each book, the training is more about
what interaction with a book is developmentally appropriate
for each age group, Air Force Capt. (Dr.) Minh-Thu Le, a
physician at Travis Air Force Base, explained.
“I ... encourage parents to try and not dictate how a child
interacts with a book,” Le said. “Not every child will sit
still for you to be able to read a book cover to cover. A
6-month-old will be more interested in mouthing the book,
which is appropriate. A 12-month-old may flip each page
quickly before you can even tell them what is on the page.
Let the child dictate how you read to them.”
Reach Out and Read could have another significant impact on
the more than 90,000 young military children it will reach
“Kids love books and usually hate going to the doctor's
office,” Le said. “Hopefully, this program will enable them
to associate coming here as a fun outing, as well as having
the book remind them and their parents [of] the importance
of getting their wellness visits done.”
As a way of reinforcing everything the Reach Out and Read
program is promoting, participating military bases also will
create literacy-rich waiting rooms. These will come complete
with child-size furniture and book cases, where Reach Out
and Read-trained volunteers will model reading with the
children while they wait for appointments.
Each child who participates in the Reach Out and Read
program also will start kindergarten with a home library of
up to seven books and the support of parents who understand
the importance of reading.
Reach Out and Read was founded in 1989 at what is now Boston
Medical Center. “Nurtured by the passionate and inspired
efforts of many educators, doctors, volunteers, parents,
corporations, foundations and politicians, ROR has grown
significantly from merely providing books in pediatric
waiting rooms, said Dr. Robert Needleman, the program's
Rob McIlvaine, Family and MWR Command Public Affairs
Photo by Air Force James Spellman Jr.
American Forces Press Service
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