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Duke providers and student-athletes partner to encourage children to 'Reach Out and Read'

Wednesday, March 8, 2017
Reach Out and Read

The Duke Children’s Primary Care at Roxboro Street is not only a place to receive excellent health care, its providers and staff also encourage their pediatric patients and their families to embrace reading through the Reach Out and Read program. To bolster their efforts, the clinic partnered with Duke Athletics’ Read with the Blue Devils program to leverage the star-power of Duke student athletes.

Founded in the 1980s, Reach Out and Read is a clinician-led effort to raise literacy awareness in children from six months to five years of age, by ‘prescribing’ them a book at each well-child visit. More than 15,000 of the clinic’s pediatric patients benefit from the program each year.

“Reach Out and Read is a wonderful program in so many ways,” says Jennifer Lawson, MD, one of the clinic’s pediatricians.  “It offers opportunities to support and advocate for our patients, to educate and inform them, and offer smiles and joy—our patients are often so excited to receive a book and look forward to more on subsequent visits, often inquiring about them.”

Duke student-athletes in the “Read with the Blue Devils” program make more than 50 visits each year to Durham elementary schools.

"I volunteered because I love interacting with children and I think giving back to the community is important,” says Chalena Scholl of Duke women’s tennis. “There's no telling how big of an impact a small action like this could have."

Duke Women’s Track and Field athlete Jaida Lemmons agreed.  “It was so encouraging to see little ones approach reading and learning with such enthusiasm in spite of all that they're facing concerning their health.”

Other student-athletes participating in the read along included Allison Florian from Duke women’s softball team, and Bella Miller from Duke women’s rowing team. 

See photos and videos from Wednesday’s event

The Reach Out and Read program also has a positive impact on the providers and staff at the clinic.

“As the child of two book editors, reading was always present in my life,” says Elizabeth Erickson, MD, pediatrician at Duke Children’s Primary Care at Roxboro Street. “Books were everywhere growing up and finding out that only half of parents read to their young children daily was remarkable to me.”

Erickson continues, “The Reach Out and Read is the perfect marriage of my love for reading and my passion for children’s health. As a pediatrician, I know that I am doing something every day that will enrich the lives of my patients and their families, in addition to providing them with medical care. Seeing smiles on my patient’s faces when I bring a book into the exam room is a highlight of my day.”

How You Can Help

Donations of new and gently used children’s books are accepted at the Duke Children’s Primary Care clinic located in the Duke Health Center at Roxboro Street, at 4020 North Roxboro Street, Durham.

Financial contributions to support the Reach Out and Read program can be made at this link.  Please indicate the donation is to be directed to Reach Out and Read.