Setting Up a Reach Out and Read Site is as Easy as ABC

February 24, 2021

Imagine a world in which every kid looks forward to going to the doctor. Where story time happens not only at the library, but also in local pediatricians’ offices. Where reading and literacy are viewed with the same developmental importance as waving goodbye or learning to tie your shoes. This vision is a reality at over 6,100 Reach Out and Read sites across America, where pediatricians who know the critical importance of brain development are trained to incorporate reading aloud into every well-child visit. And each child is sent home from those visits with a developmentally appropriate book of their own.

Knowing that there will be a fun, reassuring portion during each check-up is proven to increase well-child visit regularity, which in turn increases vaccination compliance and decreases the chance that missed developmental milestones will go undetected. There’s also evidence that suggests that Reach Out and Read intervention reduces maternal depression in young, single mothers, and that pediatricians participating in Reach Out and Read experience less stress and reduced occurrences of burnout than their peers.

Longer term, we know that kids who start out at a Reach Out and Read site have better outcomes in school than their peers without exposure to the program. Studies show this model has a significant effect on parental behavior and attitudes toward reading aloud, with families participating in Reach Out and Read reading more frequently to their children. Those children have higher receptive and expressive language scores, as well as larger increases in language scores. Independent, peer-reviewed studies consistently indicate that Reach Out and Read improves language ability in young children and increases their school readiness.

“Generations of families like mine, led by people like my grandma, who want to do everything in their power to show their children opportunity, will benefit from Reach Out and Read,” said Richmond, VA, Mayor Levar Stoney, when Reach Out and Read came to his city. “This multi-generational approach is the best way to facilitate lasting outcomes, to empower caregivers to create a generation of strong readers, and curious learners. We will beat systemic poverty by providing systemic support. We will beat generational poverty by providing the support that spans generations.”

Dr. Bergen Nelson, the pediatrician who brought Reach Out and Read to Virginia, said, “We at Reach Out and Read are dedicated to helping give children the best start in life. All children, no matter their background or means, deserve a foundation for success, and with new sites like the Children’s Hospital of Richmond our pediatricians can serve all children, including low-income families, to ensure they have access to the opportunities created by promoting early literacy.”

With so many kids in need across the country, Reach Out and Read is always looking some someone interested in setting up a new site in their community, and it’s easier than you’d think! The key is having one person willing to champion the idea and become a location Site Coordinator. This person sees the beauty of the program and is able to sell its vision to other practice members. The site coordinator is also the one who figures out the logistics around storing the books, getting people trained, and securing at least one year’s worth of funding.

With over 30 years of experience to draw on, Reach Out and Read has worked out all the bugs and the program is specifically designed to integrate into a pediatric practice as easily and seamlessly as possible. They offer an incredibly robust internal website – myROR.org – as a critical tool for accessing provider training, submitting progress reports, and ordering books at reduced rates. The site helps to remove a lot of guesswork for the Site Coordinator, keeping the pediatrician and the rest of the pediatric team focused on patient care and not bogged down with administrative details.

If you think your local community could benefit from a Reach Out and Read site, take a look at https://www.reachoutandread.org/get-involved/start-a-site/ for more information, FAQs, and contacts. Volunteering at an existing site or partnering with Reach Out and Read are also wonderful options for community members to get involved and help make early literacy and kindergarten readiness a reality for every child.

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