The nonprofit organization Reach Out and Read® has been promoting early literacy and school readiness in pediatric exam rooms across the United States since 1989. The program builds on the unique relationship between parents and medical providers to develop critical early literacy skills, beginning at the 6-month checkup.
Doctors, nurses and other medical professionals incorporate the Reach Out and Read model into regular checkups. They advise parents about the importance of reading aloud to their young children everyday.
They provide parents with information on how to read to children at each developmental stage. Every child is given an age and culturally appropriate book to take home and keep. In addition, the waiting room is a literacy rich environment with displays, information and books. In some waiting rooms volunteer readers entertain the children, demonstrating to parents techniques for reading aloud.
Every child in the program enters kindergarten with a home library of at least 10 books, as well as parents who understand the great importance of reading aloud to their children’s future success in school.
Reach Out and Read began as one program at the Boston City Hospital distributing 1,000 books and has grown to over 4,600 programs distributing 6.4 million books to 3.9 million children.
Impressive as these numbers are, research on the effect of the program is just as impressive. Peer-reviewed research findings indicate that parents served by the program are four times more likely to read aloud to their children. Other key findings show that children in the program show significant developmental gains and score higher in vocabulary tests and school readiness assessments.