Talon Smith, 4, and Leighton Sommerdyke, 6, sat quietly in the waiting room at the UC Davis pediatric specialty clinic as Mary Madru took them on a journey to the top of a mountain. She huffs and puffs, “I think I can, I think I can,” while reading aloud from the book “The Little Engine That Could.”
“I’m planting seeds in the wee ones’ minds every time I read,” said Madru, who has been a volunteer reader at UC Davis for ten years with the Reach Out and Read program, a nationwide nonprofit organization of medical providers that incorporates early literacy and school readiness into pediatric practice.
A former nurse with degrees in psychology and anthropology, Madru said she understands the importance of reading to children in their early, formative years: “Their little minds are like a sponge.”
Madru said she felt a personal obligation to the doctors and nurses at UC Davis after her husband was treated at the burn unit in 1999 following a home fire but didn’t survive his injuries.
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“I’ll never forget what those people in the burn unit did for my husband and me and I thought, I’ve got to give back in some way,” she said.
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