Children in Richmond County are happy to get something other than a shot when they visit their pediatrician.
Dr. Masoud Ahdieh is partnering with the Richmond County Partnership for Children in providing age-appropriate books to children at their regular well-child visits. A book is given at the six-month visit and at other visits until the child is 5 years old, for a total of eight books.
Ahdieh, who has served on the board of directors since the Partnership was founded, sees the Reach Out and Read program as an investment in children’s futures.
“The basis of education is reading,” said Ahdieh. “So if you value education, then reading is important. The more we encourage parents and children to read, the better chance the children have of success in the future.”
The local program is expected to reach 1,699 children each year. In just two months, the practice has given out more than 70 books, in both English and Spanish. Throughout the state, almost 150,000 books are distributed to more than 98,000 children each year.
Reach Out and Read Regional Director Callee Boulware said the program helps children develop early reading and critical thinking skills and has the goal of children entering school with a larger vocabulary and stronger skills.
“The program’s value goes beyond reading,” said Boulware. “It increases the amount of interaction between parents and children. A lot of young children don’t get as much face-to-face talking as they need, and books are the perfect way to ease parents into the habit of sharing language with their child.”
Ahdieh is convinced that the program will impact thousands of lives in Richmond County.
“If we can get parents and children interested in reading, we can make a difference,” he said. “Children’s future success in life has a direct correlation to reading and writing. In this society, you need to have good knowledge, which comes from education, which comes from reading and writing.”
Ahdieh, who has practiced pediatric and adolescent medicine in Rockingham for 32 years, believes that up to 50 percent of county pre-kindergarten children live in homes without age-appropriate books. He is backing this program because the cycle of non-reading has to stop.
“When parents can’t read, the problem goes on and on,” he said. “But most parents can read children’s books.”
Children are not just handed a book in the physician’s office. Instead, staff members reinforce the need to read with parents.
“Reading is a good habit,” Ahdieh said. “We encourage parents to read frequently to their children until the kids are used to reading.”
Two children of Sheila and Orlando Watkins of Rockingham received books on a recent doctor’s visit. Sanaa, age 3, received “The Tiny Tadpole” and 1-year-old Terrell got the book “Feelings.”
Sheila said the book program is great.
“I wish I had that when I was young,” said Sheila. “We didn’t have books at home, so I didn’t read much.”
But she’s reading now with her children. “We read four or five times a week,” she said. “Most often in the afternoons or at bedtime. All the kids like it.”
The family also is taking home more books, and giving them as presents for the children’s birthdays.
Karina Garcia, a receptionist and translator who coordinates the book distribution at the practice, said families are surprised when they receive the first book.
“They’re surprised that we’re doing it, that the books are free,” said Garcia.
Office manager Violet Ahdieh is another staunch supporter of the program.
“Books are part of education, part of growing and part of knowledge,” she said. “A book is the best friend of a person. It gives you joy and doesn’t bother you. If you need anything, you can open a book and get it.”
Richmond County Partnership for Children is a non-profit organization that distributes legislature-allocated funds in Richmond County. The Partnership collaborates with local agencies to fund and promote programs that enhance the health, education and quality of life for children, birth to age five, and their families.
For more information on the Reach Out and Read program or other Partnership for Children programs, call 910-997-3773.