HELPING TO HEAL
My colleague, Terresa Burgess, asked us in the editorial department if we had any spare books we’d like to donate to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles since she was heading over with a donation. The response at L.A. Parent was a resounding, “YES!” Once we review books we frequently find ourselves giving them away to charities around Los Angeles. When we learned about the Literally Healing Program at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, we jumped to be involved, dropped everything and got a box together that day for Terresa to bring over.
Several months after Terresa’s request, Carolyn Graham and I made it over to CHLA to meet with Claire Austin, the program’s awe-inspiring Director and this is what I learned. A Children’s Bibliotherapist, Austin runs the Literally Healing Program at CHLA with her heart and soul. Faces light up when they see her strolling a corridor. And rightly so because what she does for children and their families is truly a blessing.
Literally Healing has both a therapeutic and a literacy arm.
Austin created a ‘Therapeutic Library’ comprising a collection of over 1,000 titles that ‘speak directly’ to patients, and their siblings, to help them better understand and master the sensitive issues they face on a day to day basis. The wide assortment of therapeutic books they have on hand addresses the key challenges that may result from specific medical conditions. These therapeutic books for children provide a comforting, non-threatening way to discuss difficult topics such as adjusting to hospitalization; overcoming ridicule or exclusion because of a medical condition; and, coping with disability or death.
As part of Literally Healing’s commitment to literacy promotion, the program created a ‘Gifting Library.’ Each day that a patient is hospitalized they, and their siblings, are eligible for a free book. The program gifts over 17,000 children’s books annually.
Literally Healing has been around 8 years and continues to grow under the caring, committed and watchful eyes of Austin and her dedicated assistant and volunteers.
If you’ve ever been to the lobby of the hospital, you might have seen a Story Time in session in the Saban Story Corner or perhaps you caught fleeting glimpse of the Book Moo-bile. Both are initiatives to promote literacy and lift the spirits of children at the hospital. Highly trained volunteers, Bedside Readers, use these cow colored carts to deliver books to patients.
The Literally Healing program welcomes donations of children’s books from the public. A wish list of needed titles is posted on the hospital’s website www.childrenshospitalla.org under the ‘Giving’ tab. However, the hospital’s infection control standards require that all gifted books must be new. Space in the hospital to store these much needed books is now at a premium, so they suggest you consider donating “Gift Cards” instead of actual books. Gift Cards also allow the program to be more flexible. The program can make “on-demand” purchases to better meet patient requests as well as therapeutic books that may be integral to the child’s healing. The program welcomes Gift Cards from Barnes & Noble, Borders, Children’s Book World (310.559.2665) and Vroman’s (626.449.5320).
For further queries please e-mail Ms. Austin at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m also excited to share the news that Claire Austin will contribute reviews to
‘Good Reads With Ronna’ so readers can learn more about the diverse and
often sensitive subjects Literally Healing handles with children’s best
interests at heart. If her reviews are even half as dynamic and passionate
as the woman herself, you will not want to miss a single one.