Doctor has prescription for reading

Diagnosis: In addition to medical checkups for the children she sees in her Dundalk office, Dr. Diana Fertsch, a pediatrician, writes prescriptions asking them to read books from North Point Library.

August 29, 1999|By Young Chang | Young Chang,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

When Dr. Diana Fertsch hands her young patients a prescription, it may be for books rather than medicine. And patients who follow the doctor's orders go home with more than a free lollipop.

Since January, doctors from Dundalk Pediatrics have been cooperating with area preschools and librarians at Baltimore County's North Point Library to promote reading and a love of books among young children through a program called Prescription to Read.

Doctors write prescriptions for children between 15 months and 6 years of age to "take four books a month" from the library. Each child who fills the doctor's order -- and brings back the prescription slip stamped at the North Point library as proof -- receives a book free from Dundalk Pediatrics.

"The library would like to reach out to the preschool children and their parents," said Karen Benson, a librarian at North Point who implemented the cooperative project. "And the doctor's office is a good way to reach them."

Parents have a role in the program, helping to choose and check out books from the library, and reading aloud to children not able to read on their own. Pop-up books are favorites for very young children, said Benson.

"[The parents] have all bought into this very well," said Dr. J. Crossan O'Donovan of Dundalk Pediatrics, a former president of the Maryland chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

So have the children -- like 4-year-old Ashley Moore, who enjoys books and said that her favorite part of the program is when "mommy reads them."

Her mother, Tanya Tirschman, 21, noted that Ashley "loves to come down here and get her own books." Ashley has plenty at home, but the library gives her more variety, said Tirschman.

Fertsch said about a sixth of the prescriptions she handed out had come back stamped. "I think this is something a lot of people put up on their refrigerators," she said.

Pub Date: 8/29/99

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