August 31, 2004
Prescription for a Healthy Child:
Read to Them at an Early Age
Penn Pediatric Literacy Program
Receives $6,000 Renewal Grant
(Philadelphia, PA) – Four years and 400 children
later, family physician Ian Bennett, MD, PhD,
and his colleagues are continuing to teach parents that,
by reading to their children, they help enhance their
children’s health, as well as their future educational
achievements. “It’s really important for
a child to be read to everyday because their health
may be related to how well they learn to read. This
is the best thing a parent or guardian can do to help
their child get prepared for school,” explains
Dr. Bennett, Assistant Professor of Family Practice
& Community Medicine at Penn’s School of Medicine.
“Reading to children is the best thing to do to
help them get prepared for school.”
Under the auspices of the ‘Penn Family Care Reads’
program – which was launched by Bennett in 2001
– the physicians’ literacy-promotion efforts
just received a $6,000 one-year renewal grant from ‘First
Book, Philadelphia LAB’ – a member of ‘First
Book,’ which is a national, non-profit advisory
board that recommends reading projects for funding.
This the third consecutive year ‘First Book, Philadelphia
LAB’ has provided funding for the program.
According to Bennett, the purpose of the ‘Penn
Family Care Reads’ project is to encourage parents
– especially those not in the culture of reading
– to read to their children at least 15 to 20
minutes a day, starting at age 6 months or earlier.
In addition to providing many educational benefits,
the program, says Bennett, may be considered “
an early medical intervention” – because
studies have shown that adults who cannot read well
have poorer health outcomes than those who can read
well. “We are hopeful, therefore, that this program
will lead to better health for these children in their
adulthood,” he adds.
The $6,000 renewal grant allows the ‘Penn Family
Care Reads’ program to earn credits to buy books,
at a discounted rate, from the Scholastic Organization.
Penn Family Practice doctors then distribute age-appropriate
books to parents/guardians and kids during a well-child
visit, a routine physical exam. At this time, doctors
dispense prescriptions to the parents/guardians advising
them that they need to read to their children. Penn
physicians will counsel parents/guardians on how to
best stimulate an interest in reading in their children.
A total of 12 books will be distributed to the children
and their parents/guardians over the course of their
preschool years, through first grade or about age 5.
"We expect to reach an additional 200 children
this year alone as a result of ‘First Book's’
renewal funding," says Bennett. "By sharing
the joy of reading with their children, parents are
laying the foundation for their children's lives. It
not only stimulates a life-long love of learning, but
may lead to improved health outcomes."
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PENN Medicine is a $2.5 billion
enterprise dedicated to the related missions of medical
education, biomedical research, and high-quality patient
care. PENN Medicine consists of the University of Pennsylvania
School of Medicine (founded in 1765 as the nation’s
first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania
Health System (created in 1993 as the nation’s
first integrated academic health system).
Penn’s School of Medicine is ranked #3 in the
nation for receipt of NIH research funds; and ranked
#4 in the nation in U.S. News & World Report’s
most recent ranking of top research-oriented medical
schools. Supporting 1,400 fulltime faculty and 700 students,
the School of Medicine is recognized worldwide for its
superior education and training of the next generation
of physician-scientists and leaders of academic medicine.
Penn Health System is comprised of: its flagship hospital,
the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, consistently
rated one of the nation’s “Honor Roll”
hospitals by U.S. News & World Report; Pennsylvania
Hospital, the nation's first hospital; Presbyterian
Medical Center; a faculty practice plan; a primary-care
provider network; two multispecialty satellite facilities;
and home health care and hospice.