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Pediatrics partners with Durham community to promote literacy

Sunday, March 3, 2019
Girl reading book

From Februrary 23 to March 2, the Duke Department of Pediatrics celebrated its first annual literacy week. The celebration coincides with National Read Across America Day on March 2 in recognition of Dr. Seuss's birthday. During this week, the department hosted a variety of events to encourage reading and a love of books, including visits and volunteer readers from the Durham County Public Libraries, Durham’s Partnership for Children, Durham Book Harvest, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and Reach Out and Read in addition to Durham County Commissioner Ellen Reckhow and Duke student athletes.

During this week, the department also conducted a book drive to donate new and gently used books to the Durham Book Harvest. Bins were available in various departmental offices and clinics for donation drop-off. Those who were planning on purchasing books to donate were directed to Book Harvest’s website to learn more about the ‘Mirrors and Windows’ program designed to promote the sharing of books that portray all children of diverse backgrounds, languages, abilities, and perspectives, and including stories by and about people of color.

Each division was encouraged to embrace this opportunity to showcase the importance of early language and literacy and to highlight community partnerships in this effort. For example, the Division of Primary Care held a spirit week to celebrate their love of reading by organizing pot luck lunches, dressing up as favorite book characters, and sharing favorite books with patients and families. In addition, community partner informational tables were set up in the McGovern-Davison Children’s Health Center (CHC) lobby from 12 to 4 pm on Monday, February 25 through Thursday, February 28, and photo booths were set up the CHC and various primary care clinics on Friday, March 1.

Reading is one of the most important things that we can do to help our children thrive.  --Elizabeth Erickson, MD

“Reading is one of the most important things that we can do to help our children thrive,” said Elizabeth Erickson, MD, a primary care pediatrician at Duke Children’s. “While many people believe that learning to read begins in school, we know that talking, reading and singing in the newborn period can predict how successful children are when they arrive in kindergarten. The first thousand days of a child’s life have been identified as a critical period for brain development and during this time the building blocks for reading and understanding language are being laid. Beyond the newborn period, reading can provide a moment of calm and stillness in our busy lives. Cuddling up on the lap of a parent or other caregiver to read a book provides children with a sense of security and calm that is not easily replicated. Outside of early childhood, books can help children see themselves and their experiences reflected back to them so that they can better understand themselves. Additionally, books can serve as windows into other cultures and worldviews to help children broaden their horizons.” 

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