March 15, 2004

The pediatrics clinic at the University of North Texas Health Science Center will debut a special program this week to encourage a love of reading in patients ages two to 12.

Called First Reader, the program aims to make visits to the doctor more pleasant for children and their parents, while also rewarding children for good behavior in a way that involves the entire family.

Patients will receive a complimentary personalized book when checking in for their appointments. Parents and children are encouraged to read the book together, easing both the frustration of waiting for their appointment and any anxiety children may have about going to the doctor. The books will be offered in English or Spanish and available in exam and waiting rooms.

The program will begin the first week of March, and families will receive one book per child. Parents will then be asked to bring books back for subsequent clinic visits to continue the goals of the First Reader program. Of the 10,500 children the clinic sees annually, about 1,000 of them will receive First Reader books, said Al Neyland, assistant to the chair of pediatrics. For many, their First Reader book may be the first one they own.

The Pediatrics Clinic hopes the First Reader program will also encourage families to regularly schedule immunizations and health checks, Neyland said.. Over half of the children who visit the clinic each year live at or below the poverty level, so they may not receive regular or preventative health care clinic visits.

The program was made possible through a gift from the Virginia and Robert Hobbs Charitable Trust of Fort Worth.


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