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San Diego group flipping the script on doctor visits for kids

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Posted at 5:01 PM, Oct 19, 2021

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Taking your child to the doctor is not always a pleasant experience, but a San Diego organization is flipping the script on those fears.

San Diego pediatrician Marsha Spitzer knows that when she walks into an exam room, her patients are usually not happy to see her. That is until she reveals her secret weapon: a book.

"You show them the book and you see them turn a little bit toward you,” Dr. Spitzer said. “Maybe they stop crying. Maybe they reach out for the book.”

Spitzer leads Reach out and Read San Diego, a nonprofit that’s in 99 doctors' offices in the county.

From when a child is just six months old until they are five, each half-yearly checkup comes with a book, even if a baby is too young to read the words.

“By introducing literacy early in a child's life early, we are helping to build all those neural connections, all those synapses in the brain and we are giving children a leg up,” said Spitzer, of Family Health Centers of San Diego.

And by the time a child is five, the books make for good lessons in the exam room. Spitzer will point to a shape, color or letter and ask the children to identify them.

“If their name is Richard, I'll say, do you see any letters from your name, and sometimes they'll say ‘r’ right there,” she said.

Spitzer said introducing books help parents teach their children about reading from the get-go. She said that ultimately gives kids a six-month jump-start in vocabulary over their peers when they start school.

Spitzer said that especially helped during the COVID outbreak, when kids lost out on other developmental experiences.