Ellen Handler Spitz speaks with pediatricians about connections between early reading and child health

Honors College Professor Ellen Handler Spitz addressed dozens of pediatricians at a special lecture on early reading and child health at the Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting last week. The 7,000-member organization held its 2016 annual convention in Baltimore, April 30-May 3.

The group Spitz presented to studies the ways in which dialogic reading between parents and children activates the brain and promotes growth in the early years of development. The program Reach Out and Read is a key unit of the Literacy Development Programs in Primary Care, which falls under the umbrella of the distinguished, research-based Pediatric Academic Societies.

Professor Spitz gave an illustrated lecture in the form of a collage of approaches to reading picture books to young children. Among other topics, she discussed the evolution of the primer and spoke about how books help children to channel and modulate strong feelings. She stressed the conversational aspects of reading and at one point screened images of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama reading Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are to children on the White House lawn.  An extensive, energetic discussion between Spitz and the audience followed the talk.

“In the Honors College I teach literature and the arts to so many gifted undergraduates who go on to medical school,” explains Spitz, on one of the many connections between literature and medicine. “More and more people are grasping how central the humanities are to good medical practice, to establishing trust, and to the fostering of cultural understanding.”

Read more about the Pediatric Academic Societies meeting.

Image:  President Obama reads “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak on the Story Time Stage at the 2012 White House Easter Egg Roll Monday, April 9, 2012 in Washington, D.C. U.S. Department of Agriculture photo, CC by 2.0