A PUBLICATION OF THE CHILDREN'S LEARNING INSTITUTE
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Pediatric Medical Providers Prescribe Reading

Reach Out and Read Texas, one of the Children’s Learning Institute’s State Initiatives, gives young children a foundation for success by incorporating books into pediatric care and encouraging families to read aloud together. 

  • Trained doctors and nurses speak with parents about the importance of reading aloud, starting in infancy.
  • At each regular checkup from 6 months through 5 years of age, the child receives a new book to take home.
  • Many Reach Out and Read program sites create literacy-rich environments that include gently-used books for waiting room use and/or volunteer readers to model for parents the techniques of reading aloud to young children.

Reach Out and Read, celebrating its 30th anniversary, is a nonprofit organization that trains and supports medical providers who give books to children and advice to parents about the importance of reading aloud at well-child visits. Our organization builds on the unique relationship between parents and medical providers to develop essential early literacy skills in very young children. During regular pediatric checkups, Reach Out and Read pediatricians, family physicians, and nurse practitioners give new, developmentally-appropriate books to children, ages 6 months through 5 years, and advise parents about the importance of reading aloud to their child regularly. As a result of this evidence-based intervention, parents learn new ways to stimulate their children’s literacy development, have more books in their home, and read to their children more. Parents are supported in their role as their children’s first and most important teachers, and children grow up to become readers.

Father reading to his young son in a clinic 

Fifteen published studies have shown that the Reach Out and Read model achieves its goals: children in our program have larger vocabularies, demonstrate higher comprehension levels, and experience more enjoyment in reading activities.

Key Research Findings:

  • Parents served by Reach Out and Read are 2.5 times more likely to read aloud to their children, including high-risk urban families.
  • Children’s (ages 33 to 39 months) receptive and expressive language scores were significantly associated with both the number of Reach Out and Read pediatric visits and the number of books purchased for them by their parents.
  • For participating families, toddlers’ receptive and expressive vocabulary scores were higher even when adjusting for parent’s education level and language proficiency.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has declared literacy promotion to be an "essential component of pediatric care" for all children.

There are more than 2.1 million children in Texas under age 5 and only 41% of them are read to daily. Since normally developing children are expected to have a vocabulary of 5,000 to 6,000 words by age five and only 43% of 3rd graders meet grade level proficiency standards in reading in Texas, the need for intervention is great. Reach Out and Read Texas is active in 220 clinics across the state, providing nearly 220,000 books annually with potential to serve some 300,000 children in participating programs.

Clinic staff member presenting a book to a family

Our families love Reach Out and Read, and our medical staff loves Reach Out and Read! There is real magic when you open up the pages of a board book in front of a baby and see the baby’s eyes light up, quickly followed by the parent’s face breaking into a smile as they see their infant responding to the book. When we first started Reach Out and Read at our clinic almost 20 years ago we thought of it as a program to improve early literacy. Now we understand that the program is enhancing child-parent bonding and promoting early brain development. It’s now an integral part of our efforts to coach positive parenting and build babies’ brains!                               

- Dr. Louis Appel, Chief Medical Officer and Director of Pediatrics, People’s Community Clinic in Austin

As health care systems, policy makers, and public health experts focus on the social determinants of health and relational health—the impact positive interactions between parent and child can have not only on the child’s brain development but on the health of child and parent—Reach Out and Read becomes an increasingly important part of effective health care interventions.

For more on the policy implications of Reach Out and Read, review the publication The Elephant in the Clinic.

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