Reach Out and Read

By on Aug 20, 2014 in Giving, People

Reach Out and Read is an evidence-based nonprofit organization of medical providers who promote early literacy and reading aloud. The organization operates in all 50 states, serving 4 million kids each year. Medical providers distribute 6.5 million books to children and supply parents with literacy advice to help families obtain the longer term benefits of reading aloud from birth.

It’s never too early to promote literacy and language development, which is why the partnership between Reach Out and Read and physicians is so important.  “96 percent of kids see a pediatrician,” explains Judith Forman, Reach Out and Read’s Public Awareness Manager. “The pediatrician is the most common person outside of a home that a child sees in their first five years. We incorporate early literacy guidance into checkups since children are already going to the doctor, and parents view the pediatrician as a trusted figure.”reach out and read

Reading to babies and toddlers fills their word banks at an early age, establishing the foundation for academic success before they start kindergarten. By 18 months, children who are read to show greater intellectual processing skills than children whose parents did not read to them; by the age of three, the word gap–the number of words kids know—is already more than 30 million. From this stage, children are walking the path to failure or success as students.

To proactively adress the word gap, the American Academy of Pediatrics recently issued a policy statement officially recommending literacy promotion via pediatricians. The announcement was made at the Clinton Global Initiative meeting as part of a partnership between the AAP, Reach Out and Read, Scholastic, and Hillary Clinton’s Too Small to Fail Organization of a partnership to raise awareness among parents about the importance of early language development. The news was feature in The New York Times and several other national media outlets.

The success of youth literacy initiatives requires changing the mentality of the adult just as much as the child. “As simple as it sounds to many people, there are many parents who weren’t read to as children and they don’t know that they should do that. They may not have time. They have two or three jobs, long commutes. There are parents who have to scramble to get dinner on the table and the kids in the bath. There is never enough time when you have a child but we have to make time for reading,” says Forman.

Adult literacy could also be a barrier to program success at home. Forman recommends creative ways that parents with low literacy skills can participate: “We encourage them that even if they can’t read the words, they can sit with the child on their lap and look at the book, talk about the pictures. They can make up stories even when they’re walking outside, ‘What do you see?’ A bird. ‘What else do you see?’  A plane. ‘Who is in the plane?’ People. You know, taking any moment and expanding it to make sure that they get more words,” she says.reach out and read

Forman also recommends “narrating life.” As parents run errands or perform daily tasks, they are encouraged to describe what’s happening in conversational terms.  We are going to the store to buy chicken and broccoli for dinner. I will roast the chicken and steam the broccoli because those are healthy ways to prepare a meal.  These activities broaden a child’s word base and comprehension when time is limited or books aren’t on hand.

Reach Out and Read places an emphasis on reading books because they serve as a multisensory tool in promoting literacy, conversational skills, and comprehension. Yet any combination of rhyming, singing, and telling stories with children improves a child’s intellectual processing skills and word bank.

With contributions from Yardi, Reach Out and Read has been able to sponsor 50 children through five years of the program. “Yardi’s gift is an amazing contribution and it will help to ensure that as many children as possible will have that gift of reading,” says Forman. “Parents will have the tool of the book and they’ll be able to get the message about the importance of reading from their trusted pediatrician.”

Explore ways to get involved with Reach Out and Read and support early childhood literacy in your neighborhood. Join the conversation on Facebook at and on Twitter @reachoutandread.