Beyond Lollipops and Stickers

Dr. Susan Reines Offers Books to Refugee Children

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Dr. Susan Reines is pediatrician with Kaiser Permanente at the Panola Medical Center. A few days each week, Dr. Reines volunteers at Refugee Pediatric Clinic, a clinic in Clarkston that serves refugee children during their initial days, weeks, months, and even years in the United States.

Supported by the Health Department and with volunteers from the Centers for Disease Control and other pediatric clinics and offices in the area, Dr. Reines sees families that have come to the US with their children from Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.

Georgia is among the top ten US states to receive refugees for resettlement.

The CDC recommends all refugees have a health screening within 30 days of arriving in the States. Dr. Reines sees many of these families. It is in this setting she has partnered with Reach Out and Read Georgia and implemented the model to provide families with free books, literacy guidance and information on school preparedness.

Many families Dr. Reines meets have come here so their children can have opportunity and chief among those opportunities is education. However, Dr. Reines points out, "A lot of families have come from cultures where education hasn't been a focus. They've grown up in refugee camps. Talking with these families about the importance of school readiness is important. We encourage them to look into community resources, the local library and Head Start."

In the context of the visit, Dr. Reines says books can be a tool to determine developmental milestones in situations when the traditional screening isn't as effective because of language and other cultural barriers.

"Watching the children with a book gives us a good indication as to whether or not there are developmental issues.  We can observe fine motor skills, pointing to pictures, and whether they will start to talk with parents about what they are seeing. In typical clinical work, we can talk to a family about what their child is doing. In the refugee clinic, we have to watch the child, because we can't communicate with them as well. Though we work with interpreters most of the time, we can't always ask the parents if the child is performing certain tasks. Observing body language is essential."

Reach Out and Read Georgia provides books for doctors to distribute at well-visits to children from birth to age six. Because so many young refugee children come in with siblings, the clinic has made an effort to raise money to buy books for older kids.

"When we give a child a book, it's really a book for the whole family. If the family doesn't read in English, we suggest, through an interpreter, that they look at the pictures and tell a story in their own language."

"Of all the things a doctor can give," says Dr. Reinies, "a book is something that the parents really appreciate. They are unlikely to have the money to go to a bookstore to purchase new books. And when we are able to provide a book in their native language, they feel like we really care.

We have been really pleased with the level of support from Reach Out and Read Georgia. They have gone above and beyond to secure books for us in different languages. Families feel respected when we do that."

Contact Reach Out and Read
Reach Out and Read National Center
89 South St, Suite 201
Boston, MA 02111