Holding an oversized copy of the children’s book, “Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed,” Miss Teen USA 2011, Danielle Doty, donning her jewel-encrusted crown and flashing a perfectly white smile, prepared to read the story to children at a pediatric waiting room at Queens Hospital Center in Jamaica on Thursday.
“I am so excited to be here to read to you guys,” Doty told the children. “I remember my parents always reading to me.”
It was all part of Reach Out and Read, a school-readiness program that partners with pediatricians and provides children with free, new books every time they come in for a checkup.Over the last year, Queens Hospital Center’s Ambulatory Pediatrics Department distributed close to 6,000 books to youngsters who visited its clinic.
“The most important thing for a child’s education is the parent’s support,” said QHC Executive Director Julius Wool, a former teacher. “And the most important thing a parent can do to support their child is to read to them.”
Reading aloud to children as young as 6 months old is one of the best ways to prepare them for school, according to ROAR, and helps build stronger vocabularies and language skills.
About 20 children sat in tiny chairs as they listened to Doty, a blonde-haired, green-eyed Texan, read aloud to them in a sweet and soft voice. After the first book, she read another titled “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,” then posed for photos and signed autographs for the attendees.
The children, who ranged from infants to kindergartners, each received a free book to take home. Whether they were outgoing, shy, or in some cases crying, Doty, 18, interacted with them in a very motherly way, letting them sit on her lap and even try on her crown.
“It was an incredible experience just to read to them and see their faces light up, and to see their reactions,” she said with a slight southern accent. “I even had a little helper flipping the pages and saying the words with me.”
Doty’s young assistant was Jahnyla Mejia, 3, of Jamaica. Her mother, Pauline Flowers, said she thought the event was a wonderful idea, adding that her daughter reads often. “She like to read and she likes to have stories read to her,” Flowers said. “I’m very proud of her.”
Aliane Rosemond of St. Albans, who brought her daughter, Jenila-Ann, to the event, said the 4-year-old greatly enjoyed it, and added that she has a lot of books at home.
“All the time before she goes to sleep she says ‘Mommy, read a story to me,”’ Rosemond said. “I have to read a story to her every night.”