One-year-old Nisha Tilala smiled and bobbed her head as she tried to focus her attention on the colorful children’s book before her.
She grinned and grabbed at the book, provided with a $2,000 grant via Iowa Public Television, or IPTV, to Genesis Family Medical Center on West Central Park Avenue in Davenport. The grant includes several dozen books as well as a television set and a DVD player.
The grant came through IPTV’s partnership with the Reach Out and Read program that promotes early literacy and school readiness through children’s doctors, encouraging them to suggest the use of books and encourage families to read together. In Iowa, there are 77 program sites reaching an estimated 52,000 children.
“This is part of our initiative to support literacy around the state,” said Terry Rinehart of the statewide television system based in Johnston, Iowa. The aim is to build a 360-degree environment of community resources that promote early literacy skills in children, he said.
The reading program caters to children 6 months to 5 years old. It is often placed in areas with a large population of low-income families, said Dr. Jamie Christophersen, a pediatrician who is on the Reach Out and Read advisory committee. A high percentage of children in poverty are read to a total of about 25 hours during their first five years of life, she said, compared with the average of 1,000 hours of reading time that occurs between middle-class children and adults.
That preparation, Christophersen said, is important before the youngsters start preschool.
The Davenport Family Medical Center has offered books to children for five years, but this adds to the experience at well-child clinics and other check-ups, said Rhonda McInroy, the clinic’s social worker. The nursing and front desk staffs enjoy watching the children interact with the books, and they also see parents reading the books to their children, she said.
Christophersen learned about the Reach Out and Read program during her residency. She wanted to introduce it to the Quad-Cities when she moved to this area.
“It’s great to expose kids to books in preschool and pre-kindergarten, but there is so much brain development before children even get to school,” she said. “It’s important that we are able to reach children in the 0-3 age group.”