The New Richmond Clinic is launching a new program to help kids become better prepared for school.
The Reach Out and Read Program is a national effort coordinated by more than 4,500 hospitals and health centers across the nation.
Dr. Angela C. Brandes, a family practice physician at New Richmond Clinic, is one of the local coordinators for the new program.
The plan is to give every child, ages 6 months through 5 years, a free age-appropriate book when they come into the clinic for a well child check-up.
"The goal is to encourage reading in preschool age children," Brandes said. "And to encourage parents to read to their children and also read with them."
Brandes said research shows that the sooner children develop a love of reading, the better they will do in school and in their future working career.
"Reading is just so important," Brandes said.
The first shipment of books for the Reach Out and Read Program will be sent to the New Richmond Clinic sometime in the next four to six weeks.
Once the books are in hand, Brandes said kids will be allowed to choose one age-appropriate book as they leave their doctor appointment. The books are all purchased at cost from the Scholastic publishing company.
"I'm really excited about the program," Brandes said. "I've seen the program be successful in the clinic where I came from in La Crosse."
While Reach Out and Read is aimed at all children who come to the clinic, Brandes said the program's primary focus is to reach families who don't have a lot of books or who are disadvantaged.
"We hope this will help these kids be more successful at school," she said.
The program is funded through donations from local organizations and individual supporters. The Rotary Club of New Richmond recently pledged $300 per year for the next three years to help get the program off the ground.