I was born in Russia and introduced to books at an early age. My beloved grandmother fostered my love for books and reading; she and I spent many days at the local library together. In Russia, books were my only source of information about other cultures and worlds outside of my own. Reading became my driving force.
After completing medical school in Russia, I immigrated to Canada. It was there that I had to learn to read yet again, as an adult and a non-native English speaker. Learning to read again was not easy, but now I feel very lucky to have learned to read twice.
In my work as a pediatrician in Pawtucket, I work with children who struggle to read, and I can relate to their challenges. As a child, my favorite book was
Karlsson on the Roof
by Astrid Lindgren, which took me on little adventures along with its main characters. My favorite book to give out is
Munch! Crunch! Snacks & Lunch
which teaches kids about healthy eating, and also that reading can be fun!
I passionately believe in encouraging bilingualism in children. As a mother, I value being able to read to my two children in both my native language and English; it brings me incredible joy to know that they are hearing stories and associating them with my voice. In Pawtucket, we have many families whose native languages are Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Creole. I know that it is tough for parents who are learning English themselves to read books in a language so new to them. As a result, some parents avoid it altogether.
I recall a Spanish-speaking Dad saying that he would love to read to his children in Spanish, but that he didn't have access to any Spanish-language books.
When I handed this Dad a Spanish-language book, provided by Reach Out and Read, he was surprised and overjoyed. He didn't expect that I would value and provide books in his "mother-tongue," in this English-speaking country. I was equally excited, because I knew from experience that this small gesture would make a difference, and set Dad and daughter on a path to new discoveries of their own.
My patient population is extremely diverse. Some of my patients have access to many books, while others will only have the books that we provide. As we all know, reading is a critical skill for any child. In the first years of life, you learn how to read. Then, you read to learn. Reach Out and Read allows me to provide an incredible gift to children and families. Each time I hand a child the gift of a book, I feel as though I am handing them a key...a key that will open the door to endless possibilities.