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Improving childhood literacy, one medical visit at a time

November 27, 2023

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The practice of Dr. Stephen Flack (above, at left) is one of several WellSpan offices that offer free books to the youngest of patients through Reach Out and Read, a national initiative that promotes early literacy and school readiness.

The practice of Dr. Stephen Flack (above, at left) is one of several WellSpan offices that offer free books to the youngest of patients through Reach Out and Read, a national initiative that promotes early literacy and school readiness.

For Amber Reeder’s four children, going to the doctor for a checkup is more than getting an exam or a vaccination.

That’s because her son and three daughters know they will leave Dr. Stephen Flack’s office with a new book from the office book nook.

Dr. Flack’s practice is one of several WellSpan offices that offer free books to the youngest of patients through Reach Out and Read, an evidence-based program that promotes early literacy and school readiness nationwide.

The program began in 1989 to help families make reading a part of their routines and to supply them with the books they need to get started. It champions the positive effects of reading daily and engaging in language-rich activities with young children.

Through the program, WellSpan medical providers give new, developmentally appropriate books to children and teach parents about the importance of reading aloud.

As the medical director of Primary Care in Franklin and Cumberland counties, Dr. Flack has been providing children with new books during their well checks since 2017 to help combat poor literacy rates in the region.

“The goal of the program is to put books in the hands of children early in life,” Dr. Flack said. “I have long incorporated the importance of books and reading during my well-child checks.”

It’s also a great family activity that encourages reading and interactions, he added.

Literacy and early childhood development are important components of WellSpan’s Spotlight on Children's Health, an initiative that nurtures the whole child – their physical, emotional, intellectual, and developmental needs – from birth to 6 years old.

Amber says selecting a book at the office is an opportunity for her children to find new interests and let their imaginations run wild.

Allilah, 9, and Zailey, 7, love to read various kinds of books, and often share what they are reading with each other, she explains. Their younger siblings, Weston, 5, and Zayah, 1, like to choose books about animals and often ask their older sisters to read to them.

“They talk about getting a new book and look forward to going to the doctor,” Amber said. “This is a great opportunity because not every child has access to books.”

Donate a charitable gift 

In the spirit of giving, charitable gifts can be used to help support programs like the Spotlight on Children’s Health which encompasses Reach Out and Read and other initiatives that treat our youngest patients and help improve lives in the community.

At WellSpan, that charitable gift can be used to help support programs like the Spotlight on Children’s Health which encompasses Reach Out and Read and other initiatives that treat our youngest patients and help improve lives in the community.

Donors may choose where they want their gifts to go by clicking here.