July 23, 2018 | ° F

Children's foundation receives $100K donation

Photo by Tarja Robinson |

Bob Franks, president of the Health Care Institute of New Jersey and former assemblyman, spoke yesterday at the Eric B. Chandler Clinic in downtown New Brunswick to mark a $100K donation to Reach Out and Read.

Weaving through the waiting room, wearing professional suits and ties, Bob Franks, president of the Health Care Institute of New Jersey and Mayor Jim Cahill stood out against the dressed-down patients looking for medical attention at the Eric B. Chandler Health Clinic in downtown New Brunswick.

Although they looked dressed for a business meeting, the two men, as well as State General Assembly Deputy Speaker Upendra J. Chivukula, sat down and read picture books to five children waiting for a check-up. A Spanish translator assisted them.

The three men were bringing attention to the Healthcare Institute of New Jersey's donation of $100,000 to Reach Out and Read program. The donation bought 40,000 books for children across the state, said Franks, a former assemblyman.

In New Brunswick and Plainfield, children will receive 3,250 books altogether, he said, adding that the institute pledged to donate the same amount of money next year.

HCINJ is a trade association for health care and pharmaceutical companies in the state.

Franks said the association's interest in Reach Out and Read is for the betterment of children in poverty.

"There are extensive studies indicating that if young children can read at grade level by the time they reach second grade, they are overwhelmingly likely to lead a successful life, meaning no adverse contact with the law enforcement community, [they're] less likely to drop out of school, less drug use or other anti-social behavior," Franks said.

In addition to giving children a hopeful future, Franks said the institute donated to the organization to help children's well-being.

"We're in the business of promoting better health, and child learning promotes better health," he said.

Cahill said he enjoys how children react to new knowledge that books can potentially give to them.

"They're genuinely excited about things. To talk to them, to react to them, you get genuine responses," he said. "They're excited about learning, and they're just fun to be around."

The Reach Out and Read program provides physicians and nurses with children's books, which they distribute for free to children under the age of 5 who come for medical appointments, HCINJ Communications Officer Jennifer Forbes said. The books are either in Spanish or English - depending on what language the child and family speak.

"It's not about the reading for the littlest of children, it's about exposing them to books," said Jaqueline Fleming, a pediatrician who has worked in the clinic for more than 10 years.

She also said as they develop, the books they receive develop with them.

The youngest children, she said, get hard books with cardboard pages that make them easier to turn. As they get older, the physicians and nurses give the children books with thinner pages.

The nurses and physicians are trained to talk to the parents of the child about the importance of reading out loud to their child, she said.

"What we need to do at this age is create the interest for children to start reading," Chivukula said, adding that it's harder for children to get interested in books now because of TV and the Internet, among other distractions.

The clinic received donations of books, as well as the Neighborhood Health Services Corporation in Plainfield, the Louis Damino Pediatric Health Center and the Robert Wood Johnson Neonatal Follow-up clinic, both in New Brunswick.

Michelle Walbaum

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