Madison (WKOW) -- Making reading a part of every child's life, that's the goal of a program now getting started in two Madison pediatric clinics.
Research shows being exposed to books early on leads to greater success in school down the road.
An estimated 35 percent of children here in the U.S. lack the basic language skills needed to learn how to read when they enter kindergarden.
But a handful of doctors believe the Reach Out and Read program is the perfect prescription.
"Hi guys, I'm Dr. Cahill, how are you guys doing?"
Dr. Katherine Cahill is one of several pediatricians at the UW Health Clinic at 20 South Park Street excited about the Reach Out and Read program..
"Part of this program is, we're giving kids books at their health check up visits that are appropriate for their age.", says Dr. Cahill.
Kids as young as six months will be given books to take home.
But this program is as much for parents as it is for kids.
At each wellness visit doctors will encourage parents to read out loud with their kids, and talk to them about the benefits of it.
In the waiting room of the clinic you will also hear the sounds of children's books.
Volunteers like Maggie Servais take time out of their day to read to kids who are waiting to see the doctor.
And around each corner are signs of the importance of reading.
"Reading is the fundamental skill for learning.", says Dr. Dipesh Navsaria.
He has headed up the Reach Out and Read program for UW Health, and believes strongly in the idea that reading to kids at a young age, will make them more successful once they start school.
He says, "If you can't read fluently and easily than your ability to learn anything else, basically falls apart."
And when kids are young, he also believes there are enourmous emotional benefits.
"It's a chance for togetherness, a chance for them to hear your voice in a tone that isn't asking them to pick up clothes or eat dinner, or things like that."
Dr. Navsaria says doctors also use the Reach Out and Read program as a developental tool.
He says they'll hand a child a book in a particular way and watch what the child does with it.
They watch the child's face and how they handle the pages.
He says that can tell them a lot about a child's development in a matter of seconds.
In addition to the clinic at 20 South Park Street, the Reach Out and Read program has also just started at the UW Health Clinic on Madison's east side.
As you might imagine, it takes a lot of books to keep a program like this going.
If you would like to donate a new or gently used book, here is how you can do it.
Donations can be sent care of:
Reach Out and Read
Department of Pediatrics H4/4,
600 Highland Avenue,
Madison, WI 53792