Dr. Cathy Mauer (right) reads to 14-month-old Madison Milbry with her mother, Monica Milbry, of Stockbridge.
Madison Milbry is content with pointing at the pictures inside the colorful children’s books. The 14-month-old’s mother, Monica Milbry, said she reads to the infant frequently in hopes the child may become a life-long reader.
“You know they’re sponges at this age,” said the mother of three. “It’s been good reading to her at night with the books.”
Milbry’s daughter is a patient at The Kids Specialists Henry Pediatrics, LLC, in Stockbridge. Her child’s physician, Catherine ‘Cathy’ Mauer, M.D., is a literacy advocate who has been distributing new books to her young patients.
In January, Mauer and her practice partner, Kehinde ‘Kenny’ Odedeyi, joined a nationwide campaign to promote literacy through the non-profit “Reach Out and Read.” She said the pediatricians received training from the organization. The group’s goal is to prepare American youngsters for school by partnering with doctors, to prescribe books and encourage families to read together.
“A third of American children enter kindergarten without the basic skills necessary to learn to read,” Mauer said. “Research shows 88 percent of our first-graders who read below grade-level will continue to do so, even through fourth-grade despite remedial education.”
The condition stems from the lack of reading at home, said Mauer, noting only about half of American children are read to daily.
“This is especially true of a low-income family,” she said. “Higher-income families are guilty of this as well, because there is too much television and video gaming.”
The pediatrician is the mother of a 16-year-old biological son. She joked she also mothers “a few thousand [patients and friends] who go to their own home” at the end of the day.
Mauer’s office waiting room — decorated with mechanical games and brightly colored artwork — does not incorporate television.
“We have reading rooms in the waiting areas, and we have a library here at the clinic and no television,” Mauer reiterated. “These are messages we try to impart on the parents about early literacy and learning to read books to their children.
“We need to emphasize that we have to start earlier,” she continued. “The first through the third year is the time when the brain develops rapidly. It is this critical time period when we have to positively stimulate the brain to make the most of its potential.” The translation, she explained, is that parents must read aloud to their children to stimulate their brains to be receptive to verbal and written language.
Mauer said she and Odedeyi engage patients by incorporating literacy lessons in their routine well check visits. They periodically provide parents with new age-appropriate books for the children, as well as advice on reading to their children and teaching their children to read for themselves.
The doctor is presently funding books on her own to give her patients. She said she received a one-time $2,000 reading program grant from Target this summer. She is hopeful “Reach Out and Read” will provide assist in funding her local program soon, along with other funding sources.
“I have to continue to find ways to fund this program,” said Mauer. “I passionately feel that it is a very important program.
“Since we have started this program in our pediatric practice, we have received very positive feedback from our parents and caregivers,” she said. “Our pediatric patients have been very enthusiastic in receiving their free new books during their well check visits.”
The doctor acknowledged she recently conducted a well check visit with a two-year-old boy whose family had never read a book to him.
“It’s unfortunate, but that’s an opportunity for me to explain to the whole family about the importance of reading,” said Mauer, who gave the infant a copy of ‘Good Night Moon.’
“He took it with interest,” she said. “I read the book aloud to him, pointing to the picture of the moon. I paused, then asked him where the moon was. He proudly pointed to the round white picture and uttered ‘moon.’ It was a delightful moment...”
Mauer can be reached at her Stockbridge office, located at 1215 Eagles Landing Parkway, Suite 108, or by calling (770) 507-1821.
“It is my hope that our program becomes successful and that more medical practices become interested in starting their own programs, to encourage early literacy for the children of our community,” Mauer said. “A way to break the cycle of poverty is to empower our children to be educated, and literacy is the foundation to educating a child.”
To learn more about the “Reach Out and Read” campaign, visit the web site at www.reachoutandread.org.