UCLA Spotlight


Karen Fond, Children's Health Center

  • By Robin Heffler, Reed Hutchinson
  • Published Dec 1, 2003 8:00 AM

Karen Fond remembers crying after she gave a Braille book to a girl who was learning to read again after losing her sight. As the child took the book, she dropped her cane, put her fingers over the pages and began exclaiming, “George! George!” She had recognized one of her favorite books, “Curious George.”

Such moments are the reason that Fond, a pediatric nurse practitioner and child development specialist in the Children’s Health Center (CHC), has been spending several hours a week since 1998 volunteering as coordinator for the Reach Out and Read program. “It brings the reality of children’s lives right up front,” Fond said. “You see how something you take for granted is so incredibly wonderful for them.”

Through the national reading program, children between 6 months and 5 years old receive a book when they come to the center for a well visit. Fond and the physicians give away about 1,000 books a year to their low-income and primarily Spanish-speaking clients. In addition, students in the Graduate School of Education & Information Studies and undergraduates in the Help for Humanity program read books during story time for children who are waiting for medical appointments.

Fond has enlisted Borders bookstore in Westwood to donate some of the books, which are kept in storage in the Peter Morton Medical Building, where CHC is located. For her, a primary reward of being involved with the program is meeting children’s authors, illustrators, librarians and others who help the program to flourish.

“It’s a whole different world than health care,” Fond said. “With so many kids in California scoring below the 50th percentile in reading, I thought it was important for those of us in pediatrics to start addressing the problem.”