URBANA, Ohio (WDTN) — Mercy Health is integrating literacy into well visits for children through their Reach Out and Read program, which aims to “integrate reading into pediatric practices, advise families about the importance of reading with their children and share books that serve as a catalyst for healthy childhood development.”

While the health system is already making an impact in Champaign County, they are requesting community support in order to serve more families. 

“Essentially, what the program is – its mission is to improve literacy and kind of nurture a love for reading to start at a very early age,” explained Dr. Ceena Paul, pediatrician at Urbana Family Medicine and Pediatrics. “[It] is pretty well known that fostering that love early on translates to a little bit more of an easier time as they get older with school.”

The program allows for doctors to give books to kids during their well visits from six months to five years of age, in an effort to develop reading skills early and check for milestones and motor skills that include activities like reaching for the book and turning pages.

Mother of 2-year-old patient, Sullivan, said in addition to those benefits, the book also gives her son an added level of comfort during appointments.

“He gets really excited when the doctor hands him the book and [he] looks at all the pretty colors and all that stuff,” said Elayna Weber. “So you can tell he gets excited about that part of the visit, which is kind of nice because they’re not always fun.”

While the appointments offer an array of benefits, the books that go home with children following visits are not free to provide. That’s why Cheryl Hainey, gift officer for the Mercy Health Foundation, said any donations or contributions the community can make to keep the program going would be greatly appreciated. 

“It’s not a very expensive program, which is great,” she said. “And the money that is raised goes a long way. The books I understand that we can purchase for this, may cost less than $1.”

Paul said nearly 600 children in Champaign County currently use the program, but Mercy Health is hoping to supply even more books to kids in the near future. Hainey added that the program is always accepting donations, which can be accepted in a variety of ways. More information regarding how to make a contribution can be found below.

  • Donate by check made payable to the Mercy Health Foundation and mail to 100 W. McCreight Ave., Ste. 200, Springfield, Ohio 45504. Memo – “Read.”
  • Donate by credit card by calling the Mercy Health Foundation at 937-523-6670 to make a secure gift for “Reach Out and Read.”
  • Visit foundation.mercy.com/springfield and click through to donate directly to Reach Out and Read Program at Mercy Health – Urbana Family Medicine and Pediatrics