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Bed-Stuy Health Center Promotes Early Literacy to New Parents

By Paul DeBenedetto | September 26, 2013 8:30am
 The Bedford-Stuyvesant Family Health Center provides parents with tips on reading to their children.
Young children during a reading session at the Bedford-Stuyvesant Family Health Center.
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BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — A nonprofit health center is teaching new parents the importance of childhood literacy in Bed-Stuy.

The Bedford-Stuyvesant Family Health Center, at 1456 Fulton St., provides parents with tips on reading to their children and free books with every visit, alongside its clinical services.

Pushing early childhood literacy makes it more likely that kids will continue reading into their teen years, said health center CEO Patricia Fernandez.

"Quite often, when you speak to young people, you don't see them reading a paper, they don't read a book," Fernandez said. "This is the foundation."

The health center works with the group Reach Out and Read, which helps promote literacy as a health intervention, in order to run the program.

Last year, Reach Out and Read gave out 100,000 books in Brooklyn alone, and served about 250,000 kids in New York City, Long Island and downstate New York, according to executive director Traci Lester.

"It's such an important part of early development," Lester said. "What we're saying is you should help your children prepare for success in school by reading with them."

As part of the program, children 6 months to 5 years old get a book with each visit to the center, totaling 10 books by the end of a family's time there. Staff members council patients to read aloud to their children everyday.

Even infants benefit from being read to early on, said the health center's outreach coordinator Linda Mickens.

"They'll turn it upside down, they see the bright colors, and the sognitive skills come into place," Mickens said.

Mickens also aims to bring a reading series to the health center, where special guests can read to children. On Tuesday, Assemblywoman Annette Robinson read the book "Lola at the Library" to a group of kids from Little Sun People day care.

Robinson, who was previously an assistant teacher for a head start program, said she's seen first hand the importance of early education.

"The children begin to see things more holistically," Robinson said. "Early childhood education shapes the future for the children."