Doctor’s orders: Read daily

Reach Out and Read brings Teddy Bear Clinic to Lakeside Mall

By: Cortney Casey | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published June 26, 2012

 Sterling Heights resident Lorena Cacaj, 5, clutches the furry friend she brought out to Reach Out and Read Michigan’s Teddy Bear Clinic at Lakeside Mall June 18.

Sterling Heights resident Lorena Cacaj, 5, clutches the furry friend she brought out to Reach Out and Read Michigan’s Teddy Bear Clinic at Lakeside Mall June 18.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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Heart: steady. Ears: clear. Temperature: normal.

Yet, all of the plush patients present at a June 18 Teddy Bear Clinic at Lakeside Mall appeared to require a similar remedy: more reading.

So declared Cindy Macks, Erin Miller and Carla Hardies of Reach Out and Read Michigan, who performed “checkups” with great fanfare on young visitors’ teddy bears, horses, puppies and other plush friends as part of Lakeside’s recently launched Monday Fun Day program.

“They’re a great tie-in with children and families, because they do work with local pediatric groups to push literacy from birth to 5 years old, and that’s exactly what our age range is,” said Amy Stanton, the mall’s marketing manager.

Seated on a mat near Guest Services, clutching their stuffed animals, the clinic’s young attendees appeared completely rapt as Hardies read aloud from “Corduroy,” which appropriately chronicles a stuffed bear’s adventures while stranded overnight in a department store.

Nearby, Miller conducted checkups, armed with a thermometer, stethoscope and Band-Aids printed with Disney characters.

Each child went home with the same parent-directed prescription: Read to your children for 30 minutes a day, including every night at bedtime. Refills, the prescriptions noted, are available “as requested at local public library.”

During the event, ROR also collected donated new and gently used books from visitors for use in its efforts locally.

Macks, ROR Michigan’s program director, said the nonprofit organization previously held similar clinics at the now-defunct Borders bookstores.

That’s where they first made contact with Stanton, a former Borders employee who recalled the “adorable event” while developing Lakeside’s Monday Fun Days. She thought it would be the perfect fit for the program, which brings a different youngster-geared event to the mall on the third Monday of each month at 11 a.m.

“I think it’s cute; it’s a fun way to get kids reading and learning how to donate,” said Luchi Cacaj of Sterling Heights, who brought daughters Elisabeta, 2, Angelina, 3, and Lorena, 5. “Plus, now that school’s out, it’s a good way to keep them active.”

Macomb Township resident Alex Schmid, 6, and his sister, Alison, 4, balked at bringing their own teddy bears because they were afraid their cherished friends would get shots, laughed their mother, Tara Schmid, but Miller let them assist with a checkup on one of ROR’s plush rabbits.

“To teach the kids to give one of their books to somebody else in need, I just think it’s a great cause,” said Schmid.

According to Macks, ROR serves about 80,000 children annually in Michigan, distributing books at 115 pediatric clinics and family physician offices statewide.

“We typically try and target low-income families, so many of the books that are given at the well-child visits are sometimes the only … children’s books that are in their home,” she said.

At participating sites, ROR provides books to children at every doctor’s visit from age 6 months to 5 years, “so in the course of those first five years of life, the children will have received 10 free new books,” she said. “Really, what we’re trying to do is prevent illiteracy.”

Macks said studies have shown that young ROR beneficiaries who are read to daily are “showing a 6-month to 12-month developmental edge entering kindergarten” over their counterparts.

“It is a feel-good program. Everybody like kids, everybody likes books, but there actually is some meat behind … what we’re saying,” she said.

Monday Fun Day’s inaugural installment in May featured Rosco the Clown; the next, on July 16, will involve activities at Gloworks Toys, one of Lakeside’s retailers, said Stanton.

At each session’s conclusion, participants receive a “gold coin” to spend at a specific store, she added.

For more information on Reach Out and Read Michigan, visit www.reachoutandread.org, www.facebook.com/reachoutandread or www.twitter.com/reachoutandread.

Lakeside Mall is located at 14000 Lakeside Circle, near Hall and Schoenherr roads, in Sterling Heights. For more information on Monday Fun Day and other events, visit www.shop-lakesidemall.com or www.facebook.com/ShopLakesideMall.

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