Pediatricians and nurses at Healthcare Network of Southwest Florida (HCN) are sending families home from checkups with free books and a very important prescription – “read aloud to your children.” On April 22, Congressman Diaz-Balart visited HCN’s Golden Gate Child Care clinic, not only to cheer them on, but to practice what doctors preach by reading to a group of young patients.
The clinic participates in Reach Out and Read, a program that prepares America’s youngest children to succeed in school by partnering with doctors to prescribe books and encourage families to read together.
Doctors, nurse practitioners, and other medical professionals incorporate Reach Out and Read's evidence-based model into regular pediatric checkups, by advising parents about the importance of reading aloud and giving developmentally-appropriate books to children. The program begins at the 6-month checkup and continues through age 5, with a special emphasis on children growing up in low-income communities.
The program has gained broad bipartisan support in the United States Congress.
"It's crucial that we instill a passion and love for reading in our children at a young age,” Diaz-Balart said. “As a parent myself, I see it with my own son. Initiatives like Reach Out and Read offer opportunities to children that might not have them otherwise, and I am glad to support them in that effort."
HCN is one of 10 programs in Representative Diaz-Balart’s district that participate in Reach Out and Read. These clinics provide books to more than 16,650 children annually. Reach Out and Read serves children at 183 locations across the state of Florida, reaching more than 174,000 infants, toddlers and preschoolers each year.
Established by community leaders in 1977, HCN is a private not-for-profit organization providing primary medical and dental care for more than 36,000 people in Southwest Florida (25,000 are children) at 13 medical and dental service locations in Collier County, including the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile®.