Children's health and reading


nbruce writes "Yesterday's Wall Street Journal (April 27) had 2 articles about reading and children in the health section. Those interested in either might take a look.

One reported on a story that poor readers show changes in brain activity after highly intensive reading intervention. Underuse of the left hemisphere results in poor reading skills. After 105 hours of tutoring, the children read more accurately and fluently.

The other reported on a parent training program, designed to save Medicaid costs. The parents of children in HeadStart programs were taught to use research material instead of the emergency room for help for minor illnesses. Prior to training, 69% chose ER as a first source; after training, that was down 32%.

The research training gave the parents confidence to 1) first go to a reference book, 2) learn to define symptoms in reporting it, 3) taught them to use a thermometer, 4) taught them to use OTC medications, fluids and sponge baths, and 5) to call to consult with a medical person.

What to do when your child gets sick is a book designed for readers with low literacy. The goal of the pilot project is to educate 12,000 families by the end of 2005. The program also reduced days missed from work by the parents, which went down by 41%."


As an RN (and a librarian) I think educating parents about what to do for children's minor illnesses is fantastic. Children between 12 months and 48 months get sick about once a month. This is not necessarily a bad thing as it helps build a strong immune system. However some parents panic at a runny nose. Instructions on how to tell a minor childhood illness from a possibly more serious one - instructions that less literate parents could understand. Instructions for pushing fluids and dosing with antipyretics/analgesics based on the weight of the child would help a lot and result in a lot fewer cranky & crying children.

If the books are written by physicians (or given an imprimatur by the American Academy of Pediatrics or something similar), and geared to less literate patrons who may not have a pediatrician or nurse available to take their telephone call for any number of reasons, then they should make a wonderful addition to any collection. I would hope that they could be inexpensive enough that the parents that need them can be given, or purchase them.

Many of these parents work from paycheck to paycheque so keeping their children well keeps the parents working, and we hope, advancing in their careers. One less thing to worry about for parents is always good.

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