SHAUN STANLEY/Durango Herald
A Durango pediatrician has been honored by Reach Out and Read Colorado for donating books to her young patients.
Dr. Pakhi Chaudhuri is the literacy “ambassador” for Reach Out and Read in Southwest Colorado. She and counterparts in the other three corners of the state were cited for their contributions at a program banquet last week in Denver.
Ambassadors spread the word about the program among their colleagues and are points of contact for interested parties.
Early listening to the spoken word is critical for the development of reading and learning, Tiffany Tyson, communications director for Reach Out and Read Colorado, said by telephone from Denver.
“Infants and children in some low-income families often are not read to at all,” Tyson said. “They’re lacking vocabulary and reading skills, so by the time they reach kindergarten, they’re behind the curve.
“They’re three to six months behind children who have been read to,” Tyson said. “The loss is almost impossible to make up.”
Chaudhuri was following the routine Thursday when she handed Isabel Caciagli, age 15 months, a copy of 5 Busy Ducklings to entertain her while she examined the tot’s mouth and ears at a well-baby visit.
“We read every night at bedtime,” said mom, Rachel Caciagli.
Caciagli, a Cortez resident, is in the first stage of building a child’s library because the books she’s read to daughter Evelyn, age 4, are starting to pile up.
Chaudhuri became familiar with the literacy component of pediatrics when she practiced in Seattle.
“We had a book-lending program,” Chaudhuri said. “It was well-received.”
She promotes regular reading to infants, Chaudhuri said, because of the advantage it gives them by the time they enter kindergarten. It’s hard for reading-deprived children to catch up, she said.
The first source of books when she arrived in Durango was the public library. She later became involved with Reach Out and Read Colorado. Parents get a book at every well-baby visit from 6 months to 5 years. Since she opened her practice in Durango in 2006, Chaudhuri has given 4,107 books to patients.
“We provide 65 percent of funding through good deals with publishing agencies,” Tyson said. “The clinics, which choose the books, raise the rest through fund drives or donations.”
Reach Out and Read Colorado was founded in 1997, eight years after the national organization.