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When I was very young, my parents often read to me and encouraged me to read.  I especially loved John Ciardi’s “You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You,” alternating reading the poems with my parents.  I still vividly recall this one.

About the Teeth of Sharks 

The thing about a shark is—teeth,
One row above, one row beneath. 
 
Now take a close look. Do you find
It has another row behind? 
 
Still closer—here, I’ll hold your hat:
Has it a third row behind that? 
 
Now look in and…Look out! Oh my,
I’ll never know now! Well, goodbye. 

My wife and I started reading to our kids in utero.  Seriously – Dr. Seuss’s “Oh, Baby, the Places You’ll Go!: A book to be read in Utero.”  I’m sure Theodore Geisel is turning over in his grave, but it became a ritual for us.  To this day, one of my favorite evening activities is to sit and read stories together before bed, even though my kids are now old enough to read “Harry Potter” on their own and sometimes go to sleep after me.  There is and always has been something magical about reading stories.

When I was doing my pediatric residency at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, our pediatric clinic started a “Reach Out and Read” (reachoutandread.org) program.  Now a national initiative headed by writer and pediatrician Perri Klass, ROAR provides reading materials and support for literacy for underprivileged children.  The power of books was never more apparent to me.  In fact, research on ROAR demonstrates clear benefits, as noted on their web site.

  • Parents served by Reach Out and Read are up to four times more likely to read aloud to their children.
  • Children served by Reach Out and Read show significant developmental gains in language and a six-month developmental edge over their peers in the preschool years.
  • Children served by Reach Out and Read also score higher on vocabulary tests and school readiness assessments.

At the Whole Child Center, we made a conscious effort to stock our waiting and exam rooms not with toys but with books.  It’s heart-warming to walk into a room and see a parent reading with their child.  I often wonder if these moments are unique pockets in ever-busier lives.  Some of our families have asked for a list of our book titles here.  Here are ten of my favorites.  Happy reading!

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