пятница, 14 сентября 2012 г.


Byline: KATIE DEAN The Capital Times

Pediatric resident Dipesh Navsaria has a novel way of measuring his young patients' development during checkups: He puts a book in their hands and watches their reaction.

Navsaria, a resident at American Family Childern's Hospital, says the child's response speaks volumes. If the patient shows interest and curiosity, he can tell if books are a natural part of their life. At a certain age, if the child holds the book right-side up, opens it and turns the pages, the doctor gets a quick read on motor skills.

And if children begin talking about what they see in the book, Navsaria can see if they are building social skills.

'This is part of the tools we use to assess children's health,' he said. 'We want children to grow up and set habits and methods of learning that will carry them forward their entire lives.

'Our entire academic system is predicated on the ability to read fluently. (Without that skill), it's pretty hard to be successful,' he added.

Navsaria isn't just talking as a doctor, but as a librarian. He took a break during his medical studies to earn a master's degree in library and information science, with a focus on children's literature.

With his jaunty bow tie and glasses, Navsaria, 34, looks as if he'd be equally comfortable leading story time as he is treating patients.


Navsaria is working with Reach Out and Read, a national nonprofit organization founded by pediatricians and educators in Boston that promotes the importance of early literacy, with a focus on reaching low-income populations.

He has started a Reach Out and Read (ROR) program at UW's student-run free clinic, MEDiC. A ROR program at the Access Community Health Center on South Park Street will open in the next two months, if not sooner, Navsaria said. He is also looking for funding to expand the program to two of the outpatient UW Health pediatric clinics.

ROR takes several approaches to building children's literacy. The program calls for creating medical centers with 'literacy-rich' waiting rooms, where books are readily available, volunteers are available to read to children, and ideally, where there is no television. That sort of environment 'sends the message that this is a good way to spend their down time,' Navsaria said.

All children coming in for their regular checkups are given a brand new book, starting at 6 months of age up until age 5. That results in a collection of about 10 books.

In addition, health care providers encourage and give age-appropriate advice to parents on reading, much like they give standard advice on using car seats and bike helmets.

'I found the best way to do this is a short intervention,' said Navsaria. He calls his approach a 'five-second elevator speech' to parents:

'Sharing books is such a wonderful thing to do with a child. It makes such a difference in their brain development. Please read together every night.'

The physician librarian also passes out a prescription to 'Read Books' to every child he sees. Refills are available as requested - at the local public library, of course.


Though ROR is an outpatient community-oriented program, Navsaria believes its basic ideas can be applied to inpatient settings. Navsaria has initial funding for a reading program at the Newborn Intensive Care Unit at Meriter Hospital, and a group of UW library students has begun to compile a list of possible titles. He has also applied for grants to bring a similar reading program to the new American Family Children's Hospital.

For children who are inpatients at the hospital, he wants to see a greater selection of quality books, and he has spoken with public librarians about bringing in more books through interlibrary loan.

'They loan books to prisons,' Navsaria said. 'They can do it for hospitals.'

Though he is loath to deprive children of their comforts at a time when they don't feel well, he said it concerns him that there are piles of DVDs and games in the hospital, but few books, besides those in the hospital schoolroom.

'I want this option to be available to them,' he said. 'We haven't won the 'mind share.' (Books are) more associated with school rather than reading for pleasure.'

Betsy Bromley, a graduate student at the UW-Madison School of Library and Information Studies, is helping to develop a collection of books for the Meriter neonatal ICU (NICU). She said the group is considering quality and classic books and those that will hold up for multiple uses.

The project combines several of her interests. Before going to school to pursue a career as a children's librarian, she considered becoming a child life specialist at a hospital. Child life specialists work to make the hospital environment less scary for children, provide emotional support and do activities with the kids. The reading project is consistent with such goals.

In the NICU, parents who are unable to sometimes touch or hold their children would be able to connect to their babies by reading to them. At the same time, siblings of children in the NICU would have books available to read.


Born in London and raised in New York City, Navsaria made his way to Madison in May 2006 after medical school and library school at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He first heard about Reach Out and Read as an undergraduate at Boston University, when he worked at Boston City Hospital.

In between undergraduate studies and medical school, he earned a master's degree in public health in Boston and a physician assistant master's degree at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

Navsaria, who is married to a Wisconsin native and has two young children of his own, is working on the ROR program in addition to his work as a pediatric resident. He said his family hopes to stay in Madison.

'That he would initiate a project like this when he already has so much on his plate is really pretty inspiring,' Bromley said.

His dedication to early literacy has impressed local librarians.

'He's very full of energy and ideas and is a real advocate for children's literature,' said Kathleen Horning, director of the Cooperative Children's Book Center at the UW-Madison School of Education.

She sees Navsaria as a 'kindred spiritbecause of our interest in children's books and getting books into the hands of children.

'He is able to pull together people who come from different professions and different experiences to help him fulfill his mission,' Horning added.

Involving pediatricians in promoting literacy makes sense, she said. It's an excellent way to get the message across to parents that reading is a critical part of child development.

'Doctors have a little more credibility than librarians, and chances are, parents with small children are going to interact with doctors on a regular basis,' Horning said. 'That's not always the case with librarians.'

Reading to children 'is such an important part of baby brain development,' she said.

And as for Navsaria's favorite children's book?

It's the much-loved classic 'Where the Wild Things Are' by Maurice Sendak.


The medical director of Reach Out and Read will be in Madison next week to discuss the program that promotes early literacy.

Dr. Perri Klass' national nonprofit organization gives books to children and helps parents cultivate good reading habits for their kids. She will be speaking in Room 310 at the Harambee South Madison Health and Family Center, 2202 S. Park St., on Thursday, Oct. 25, at 7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

For more information about Reach Out and Read, visit the group's Web site at www.reachoutandread.org.




Dipesh Navsaria, a pediatric resident at UW Hospital, reads to Cecilia

Rios, 7, (left) and Jazlynn Rios, 1, at American Family Children's Hospital.

Navsaria is a doctor as well as a librarian. He took a break during his

medical studies to earn a master's degree in library and information science,

with a focus on children's literature.

Cecilia Rios, 7, reads a book to Dipesh Navsaria, a pediatric resident, at

the American Family Children's Hospital.