A group of Wilmington elementary school students has reached outside the walls of their classroom to share the joy of reading with pediatric patients and newborns at New Hanover Regional Medical Center.
Tara Mulvey’s third-grade class at Winter Park Elementary donated handmade “literacy bags” filled with reading materials for new moms to read to their babies. Along with sewing each bag and picking out the books, the children also included personalized notes to the new moms and babies.
“We always try to make learning meaningful for the students,” Mulvey said. “We wanted to expand on our curriculum and let them experience what it’s like to give to our community and spread the joy of reading and learning with others.
“The students thought ‘Let’s take them to the hospital for kids who are sick and not at home or might not have something to read while they don’t feel good.’ Then they thought of giving them to new babies so when they go home so they will have a first book.”
Barbara Buechler, RN, Director of Women’s and Children’s Services at NHRMC, accepted the donations from the class, telling the children the gifts would be put to good use.
“The bags prepared so thoughtfully by the students are a perfect gift for children,” she said. “Reading to a child can reduce the anxiety that both the child and the parents are experiencing. On the pediatric unit, parents, child life specialists and volunteers are all available to read to children.”
The Winter Park students are not the first to help the youngest patients at New Hanover Regional Medical Center. Last year fifth-graders from the Friends School of Wilmington organized an effort to help buy books for the “Reach Out and Read” program in the pediatric outpatient clinics.
"Reach Out and Read" is a national program started in 1989 to promote literacy by giving new books to children and advice to parents about the importance or reading aloud in pediatric exam rooms. NHRMC incorporated the program in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit follow-up clinic in 1998. Since then, the program has expanded to provide new or gently used books to children who visit any one of the network’s eight pediatric clinics.
“Fifth graders from the Friends School of Wilmington organized a store in their classroom for the community to come in and buy books,” said Kele Batchelor, coordinator for NHRMC’s “Reach Out and Read” program. “They designed t-shirts and had flyers to raise awareness in the community. They sold enough books to be able to buy about 18 hundred dollars worth of books for our program.”
“Many of the children who come to the clinics have chronic conditions and have to see the doctor often,” said Donna Vaught, Ph.D., Developmental Specialist at NHRMC. “It may not be something they look forward to. We can provide a little smile through these books. One little girl came into her appointment upset, but after we gave her a book she said ‘this is not such a bad place after all.’”
Grant money helps buy most of the books. Along with the “Reach Out and Read” organization, the Clannad Foundation, the New Hanover Regional Medical Center Foundation, and the Landfall Foundation have all supported the program.
Batchelor is working to secure additional grants to expand “Reach Out and Read” into other child patient areas such as The Birthplace and the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. She is also looking for volunteers to read to the children in the clinic areas.
“We’re in need of people who would like to donate their time to help brighten the days of these kids while they are going through a not so enjoyable time,” she said.If you would like to learn more about “Reach Out and Read” at NHRMC or how to volunteer with the program, contact program coordinator Kelé Batchelor at 343.4621.