• Matthew Odegaard, 13, reads a book donated by the American Red Cross for the Reach Out and Read program at Winn Army Community Hospital. The program encourages early literacy and reading for children.

    Kids Read

    Matthew Odegaard, 13, reads a book donated by the American Red Cross for the Reach Out and Read program at Winn Army Community Hospital. The program encourages early literacy and reading for children.

  • Maria Griffiths, 5, reads along as American Red Cross volunteer, Melinda Geczy reads to children at Winn Army Community Hospital as part of the Reach Out and Read program, June 18.

    Volunteer Reads

    Maria Griffiths, 5, reads along as American Red Cross volunteer, Melinda Geczy reads to children at Winn Army Community Hospital as part of the Reach Out and Read program, June 18.

<b>Fort Stewart, Ga.</b>- Going to the doctor can be scary for many children, whether they are sick or not. A tall stranger in weird clothes pokes and prods you. Sometimes they even stick you with a needle. But now children going for appointments at Winn Army Community Hospital's pediatric clinic will have something to look forward to - a book.

As a part of a national reading initiative called Reach Out and Read, doctors at Winn's pediatric clinic are handing out new books to children and discussing the importance of reading with their parents.

Winn's program is just one of many around the country and on military bases all over the world.

Reach Out and Read is an early literacy program designed to stress to parents the importance of reading to young children, ages six months to five years old.

The program trains doctors and nurses to speak with parents of babies and young children about the importance of reading at home.

The Red Cross volunteers at WACH took the program one step further, and read to children in the waiting room of the pediatric clinic.

The initiative was such a success that the clinic received extra recognition, June 18 when the Red Cross donated a large box of books to the clinic for its reading program.

The director of the Red Cross at Fort Stewart, Alphonsa Oliver, came to the pediatric clinic and presented the box of books for the clinic to distribute to older children who were waiting on their younger siblings.

Oliver said that he was very impressed with the program.

"The kids love it," said Connie Hamilton, head nurse of the pediatric clinic. "The volunteers make the time in the waiting room much more enjoyable for the children and it is a way to promote literacy and turn off the TV."

The program has been such a success that groups all over post are getting involved.

Both the Enlisted and Protestant Wives Clubs of Fort Stewart have donated new and gently used books for volunteers to read from and distribute in the waiting room. Army Community Services is also donating 5,000 deployment-related books to the clinic for distribution to children who have a parent deployed.

"The kids get very excited." said Lt. Col. (Dr.) Andrew Doyle, chief, Department of Primary Care at Winn. "I think that having people in the waiting room reading books to children is a much more productive time in the waiting room than watching television."

For more information on how to assist the program or volunteer at the hospital please contact the WACH Red Cross office at 435-6903.

Page last updated Thu June 25th, 2009 at 13:02