Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso’s Reach Out and Read Program will continue impacting El Paso communities thanks to a $2,000 grant from Superior HealthPlan.
The TTP El Paso Reach Out and Read program provides bilingual, age-appropriate books for children who visit pediatric and family medicine clinics at TTP El Paso’s Alberta and Transmountain locations. Physicians also advise parents about the benefits of reading aloud and how to incorporate reading into the family’s daily routine. Children who attend all their recommended wellness visits will collect 10 books by the time they begin school.
“As medical providers, we’re in a unique situation where we provide care to children from birth to when a child starts school through wellness visits,” said Blanca Garcia, M.D., a pediatrics specialist who oversees the program at TTP El Paso at Alberta. “Reach Out and Read builds on the relationship between parents and medical providers and allows us to help stimulate their children’s literacy development.”
Children who grow up without sufficient exposure to reading often arrive at school without basic literacy skills and struggle with reading in the early grades. Dr. Garcia said that’s because rapid brain development in the first five years of life offers a critical window for learning. Development of early literacy in children begins before a child learns to read, but the process depends on factors such as cognitive abilities, brain development, curiosity and reading experiences.
A national, physician-based literacy program, Reach Out and Read was implemented by the Department of Pediatrics at TTP El Paso in 2002. Medical providers give developmentally and culturally appropriate books to children ages 6 months to 5 years of age during their wellness visits and provide families with guidance on the importance of reading out loud to their children.
Since the founding of the program in 1989, Reach Out and Read has served more than four million children annually nationwide, half of whom were from low-income families. With more than 40,000 pediatric providers participating, Reach Out and Read has the potential to reach 90% of children throughout the U.S. through well-child visits, beginning at birth.
Dr. Garcia said the program is particularly important at TTP El Paso’s South-Central location because most patients seen in the pediatric clinic are from low-income families.
“Approximately 35% of U.S. children may enter school lacking the language skills that are the prerequisites for acquiring literacy. Border disparities such as poverty and the education level of the parents may contribute to this in our population,” Dr. Garcia said.
Peter Catinella, M.D., M.P.H., chair of the Department of Family Medicine at TTP El Paso at Transmountain, said having a physician recommend and even model the program in the office provides parents with motivation and confidence to continue at home. That type of experience for both the parent and the child contributes to the overall health of the family.
“Parents reading to their children fosters several important developmental needs of children,” Dr. Catinella said. “First, it provides a bonding experience for the parent and child; this helps the child’s social development. Second, children who are read to develop a faster and richer language ability than those without reading.”
The donation for this program comes from Superior HealthPlan, a managed care organization that provides health care to more than 1.7 million Texas residents. The company began in El Paso in 1999, and now has office locations across the state and serves members in all 254 counties in Texas.
“We’re proud to support Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso and this program because we know reading together promotes healthy brain development, improves language skills, and helps families strengthen relationships,” said David Harmon, M.D., Chief Medical Director at Superior HealthPlan. “This is one of many examples of how we’re committed to transforming the health of Texas communities, one person at a time.”
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