M Health Fairview doctors' book handouts giving young children a head start

This little girl is one of many children that have gotten to take home a book after a doctor's visit. (FOX 9)

March is National Reading Month and M Health Fairview recently received a gift to help celebrate.

The Maple Grove Rotary Club donated 100 bilingual books to the health care system's "Reach Out and Read" program which puts books into the hands of children at an early age.

It’s a trip to the doctor’s office for this three-year-old girl and her mother.

One of those kids came with her mother for a check-up at Dr. Tony Pelzel's practice at the M Health Fairview Clinic on Rice Street in St. Paul. It’s a routine check-up, done with the help of an interpreter, that goes beyond the examination room.

Since 2005, M Health Fairview has given books to kids during their wellness visits. It's part of the National Reach Out and Read Program, which integrates reading into pediatric care.

"The idea of the program is to get kids reading with their parents and encourage reading as a daily priority for everybody and every family," said Dr. Pelzel.

It also gives physicians the opportunity to judge a child's motor skills and monitor developmental progress.

"The early children will hopefully grab the book with two hands and put it in their mouths," said Dr. Pelzel. "And as further time goes on, I hand them the book upside down and kind of judge their spatial reasoning skills and see if they can turn it right side up."

Dr. Pelzel says early literacy is also a tool to help promote school readiness.

"There's a large equity component for us to right?" said Dr. Pelzel. "Not every family has had reading modeled in the way some of us had. We just noticed the benefits of it are so huge for kids."

The doctor says so far more than 60,000 books have been distributed throughout the M Health Fairview system.