Child Health Advocacy and Safety

Inpatient Reading Library

Dr. Dipesh Navsaria and Wisconsin's First Lady, Jessica Doyle, at the American Family Children's Hospital Library Dedication
Dr. Dipesh Navsaria and former Wisconsin First Lady Jessica Doyle at the library dedication

Children who read do better in school, have a more expansive vocabulary, and live healthier lives. Reading also helps children, and adults, cope with stressful times, such as when they are in the hospital.

Recognizing how critical reading is for kids, American Family Children's Hospital opened an inpatient reading library, filled with more than 600 books for newborns through age 18.

The idea for the library was championed by Dipesh Navsaria, MD, UW Health pediatrician and a trained librarian. Dr. Navsaria understands how critical reading is to a child's well-being. As a resident at American Family Children's Hospital, he was known for actually handing out prescriptions to read.

It was during his residency that he observed parents reading to their hospitalized children, yet there were few books available. He felt patients needed access to quality books, and the idea for an inpatient library soon formed.

"Reading is the fundamental skill for learning," said Dr. Navsaria, explaining the reason behind the library.

Fewer than half of U.S. children are read to by their parents, and among children from lower socio-economic backgrounds, the number is even lower.

Reading aloud to children improves their cognitive and language skills, and helps them be better prepared for school. And, a child's reading ability by the third grade is a strong predictor of their lifelong academic success.

A 24-Hour Resource for Patients and Families

With its professionally selected, high-quality collection of award-winning books for infants through young adults, American Family Children's Hospital is one of the few National Association of Children's Hospitals and Related Institutions (NACHRI) facilities to have a robust literacy presence.

By offering children and families easy browsing through conveniently located, 24-hour-accessible shelves, we ensure that books are not only a serious option for distraction during hospitalization, but a part of the landscape of the hospital environment.

With ongoing training of pediatric nursing staff about the importance of literacy promotion, families are encouraged to make use of the library resources, including volunteer readers, to whatever extent possible.

The Inpatient Library is located on the 5th Floor Family Lounge area. Planned future extensions to the Inpatient Reading Library project include audio books on MP3 players, interlibrary loans with the public library system, e-books, and recorded "story times" with pediatricians and staff available on closed-circuit television.

Information for Parents and Families - Share Books Together

Reading together is simply the most important thing you can do with your children to set them on the path to a bright future. A child who is comfortable with books and printed words from an early age is a child who enters preschool and kindergarten ready to take advantage of all that school has to offer.

Don't settle for books that are less than the best. There are so many wonderful books available for children of all ages, and your local public libraries are filled with them – for free, no less! Many books, DVDs, and games will claim that they provide the very best stimulation for your child, but the irony is they often do not.

Choose books with interesting plots and good uses of vocabulary, with beautiful drawings and illustrations. For more specific things to look for: What Children Like in Books (pdf)

Of course you are not obligated to read a book in exact order from cover to cover. Make reading a conversation with your child; look for features in the illustrations and ask questions as you read ("Where's the bird? Yes! It's a red bird!"). This technique can be especially helpful to engage and maintain the interest of a squirmy toddler with limited patience.

Finally, limit your child's screen time. "Educational" DVDs, television shows, websites, and video games are fine as short-term entertainment to let you get important household tasks done, but they are associated with lower vocabulary scores and ADHD. They also expose your child to an almost constant barrage of marketing that exploits the developmental differences in children. Learn more from KidsHealth: How TV Affects Your Child

Reading: The Fundamental Skill for Learning

Reading, rather than simply a "nice activity" or a developmental stage, allows humans to access, understand, and derive meaning from information. Even in our modern, digital society, the most efficient and effective conveyor of ideas is text.

Children fluent in the language of television, DVDs, computer games, and the internet, but not fluent in the decoding of text, will have difficulty learning. Beyond this, however, the sharing of books together offers children and families opportunities to exchange ideas, enjoy physical closeness, and learn from one another. The sharing of both old favorites and new treasures forges close bonds and serves as a springboard for all sorts of conversations.

The aim of the University of Wisconsin Pediatric Early Literacy Projects is to make accessibility to books and the promotion of reading a routine part of health care. While there are many worthy organizations that promote literacy, the UW Pediatric Early Literacy Projects feel that this skill is so critical to the academic futures of children (and the overall health of society) that it warrants side-by-side placement with other health and safety advice. The Pediatric Early Literacy Projects are part of the American Family Children's Hospital Child Health Advocacy Center.

Inpatient Reading Library Sponsors

We are very grateful to all our supporters, large and small, including:

  • The Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment
  • University Book Store
  • American Girl Fund for Children
  • Target Community Foundation
  • Members of the community, families, and others

Even a small donation of $40 enables us to place books in the hands of 10 children together with high-quality advice from their health care providers. We also gratefully accept new or gently used children's books. If you're interested in donating books, please contact us at ror@pediatrics.wisc.edu.