OAK PARK, Ill. – On a daily basis, primary care providers at PCC Community Wellness Center (PCC) walk into patient exam rooms and children as young as three years old will ask for a book. Sometimes they are shy and whisper the request into their mothers’ ears. If a child has chosen a gently used book from the PCC waiting room, he or she may be excited to show the provider which book was selected. Pediatric patients love taking books home and look forward to this aspect of care at PCC.

The Reach Out and Read program has been a part of PCC’s primary care model since 1998. It is part of the National Reach Out and Read® pediatric literacy program that targets underserved children six months to five years of age and their families. PCC’s Reach Out and Read program incorporates national service AmeriCorps members who partner with PCC primary care providers to address early childhood literacy as a critical component of primary health care.

PCC has designed programs and services that take on a holistic approach by addressing the multiple needs of patients and breaking barriers to healthcare, including literacy. There is an undeniable link between poverty and low-literacy rates. With a lack of resources for books and low levels of parental education it becomes increasingly difficult for a child to succeed in reading. PCC strives to enhance early literacy in the communities served by providing resources to children and modeling reading behavior to caregivers.

Following the National Reach Out and Read model, PCC primary care providers “prescribe” reading at every well-child visit for children six months through five years of age by giving out a new, developmentally-appropriate book to take home and keep. Providers use their knowledge of pediatric development to emphasize the importance of reading at home. Last, PCC prioritizes creating “literacy-rich environments” in waiting areas where AmeriCorps members and volunteers read aloud to children to model reading behavior and techniques. Gently used books are available for reading or taking home, when available.

PCC is extremely grateful for the 2013 funding for the Reach Out and Read program. Specifically, PCC has secured funding from individuals as well as Target and the Rotary Club of Oak Park-River Forest. The Rotary Club of Oak Park-River Forest has supported the program for four consecutive years, enabling PCC to purchase a total of 1,698 books for the Reach Out and Read program. The Rotary Club of Oak Park-River Forest provides a source of strong local support for the literacy needs of the community.

For more information about the Reach Out and Read program at PCC, please contact Lucy Flores at 708-524-7685 or PCC is recruiting volunteers to read to children in health center waiting rooms. Monetary donations towards the program are also welcome, with 100% of funds used to purchase new books for children. Checks can be made payable to PCC Community Wellness Center and can be mailed to the attention of the Development Department at 14 Lake Street, Oak Park, IL 60302.