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Children’s Wellness Center’s Prescription for Young Readers

Posted: Feb. 27, 2012

On a typical day in the brightly painted waiting room of the Children’s Wellness Center, 30 to 35 children wait anxiously for their appointment with the nurse practitioner. In spite of the staff’s warm smiles and high fives, it’s hard for the kids to remember that a visit to the center will make them feel better soon.

Anastasia Corker, nurse practitioner student, reads aloud to Jayden Rogers and Makenzie Coppernoll

Anastasia Corker, nurse practitioner student, reads
aloud to Jayden Rogers and Makenzie Coppernoll

Today is different. This time as they walk to the examination room, the nervousness melts away quickly when they are handed a colorful new book with a cat wearing a silly hat on the cover. That’s because today is the birthday of Dr. Seuss, one of America’s most beloved children’s authors. In celebration, each patient will take home one of his delightful books.

Helping children thrive mentally as well as physically is key to the center’s mission. As part of a collaboration with the early literacy program Reach Out and Read, the staff provide a free book to every child, starting at six months old, who comes for a well-child appointment.

That’s why Shatzie Montellano, director of the Children’s Wellness Center, thought that providing books to honor Dr. Seuss would be a perfect fit.

“Literacy plays a big part in getting a healthy start in life,” said Montellano, RN, MSN, FNP-C. “A year ago, I heard about a similar give-away on Dr. Seuss’s birthday and thought that this year it would be fun for our patients to get to take part.”

The center is one of two multi-purpose clinics operated by the University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing. In conjunction with the Family Wellness Center, located near Interstate Highway 35 in Austin, the Children’s Wellness Center helps to address the critical shortage of health-care access for under- and uninsured residents of Travis County.

The centers also serve as training sites for future registered nurses and nurse practitioners as well as research sites focusing on health disparities.

Located within the Del Valle Independent School District, a 174-square-mile rural area in the southern part of Travis County, the Children’s Wellness Center began in 1996 when the nurse for the school district requested help from the School of Nursing in dealing with the complex health issues of the children in the area.

Today, more than 5,000 children receive a variety of health-care services—including preventative primary care and chronic disease management—every year. One of the more robust areas of this care is an immunization program that last year alone provided 6,000 immunizations.

“Tending to our patients’ health needs is very important, but so is encouraging them to become better readers, bigger dreamers,” Montellano said. “If we can help them get a good start in both body and mind, there’s no telling how much better their lives can be.”

The Cat in the Hat couldn’t have said it better himself.