If you have young children, you want them to grow up to be strong, healthy and happy. You’ll do everything within your power to provide them with nutrient-rich foods and the best in quality healthcare.
But what about feeding their brains? When you make time to read to your child and introduce them to the world of books, you are giving them a healthy dose of cognitive development and long-term success. Yes, reading enhances a child’s intellectual abilities, positively impacts their coping strategies, advances their emotional intelligence and of course accelerates their language development. Reading is a daily vitamin not to be missed.
Reach Out and Read is a program specifically designed to provide this nutrient-rich cognitive experience. The program starts during a child’s infancy and continues through age five and is available to children and families in all 50 states.
“We know that nurturing, language-rich interactions like reading aloud together give young children a foundation for success,” says Brian Gallagher, Chief Executive Officer. “Reach Out and Read works directly with pediatric providers to share the lifelong benefits that result from families reading aloud to their children every day.”
“By integrating these experiences into pediatric care and providing tools and encouragement to families we are transforming pediatric care and giving children of all backgrounds and means a strong start to life.”
Reach Out and Read began in 1989 at the Boston City Hospital (now Boston Medical Center) where the program’s three-part literacy model was first introduced to patients. Developed by pediatricians Barry Zuckerman and Robert Needlman along with early childhood educators Jean Nigro, Kathleen MacLean, and Kathleen Fitzgerald-Rice, its special emphasis is on children growing up in low-income communities.
“The program is both cost-effective and evidence-based: research shows that Reach Out and Read results in more frequent reading at home, more enjoyment by families reading together, and accelerated language development,” says Gallagher.
One example of the positive impact of Reach Out and Read was shared by a participant, Claudia in New York City.
“At the age of 16, pregnant with my son Alejandro, I came to the United States from the Dominican Republic. When I arrived, so many things were new to me. I had to learn the language and the culture—and as an expectant mother, I needed to navigate the healthcare system,” she said. “The doctors at my son’s pediatrician’s office became a trusted resource, helping me feel at home and advising me on how to care for my new baby. Reach Out and Read was an important part of this process, teaching me to nurture his mind during his most critical years of brain development. When I received new books and spoke with Alejandro’s doctor about how he was developing cognitively and socially—because of Reach Out and Read—I knew we were being cared for as people as well as patients.”
Reach Out and Read just celebrated their 30th anniversary and continues to expand. The growing network of pediatric teams provide new age and language-appropriate books and share literacy advice with children and parents at each well-child visit.
C.E.O. Brian Gallagher recognizes how much their partner pediatricians have contributed to enhance the program’s outreach. “I’m consistently inspired and humbled by the sincere and profound commitment that pediatric clinicians demonstrate, every day, to our mission, because they experience first-hand what book sharing means for their families in their care,” says Gallagher. “By incorporating a children’s book and a message about reading aloud into their check-ups, they witness the ways in which that child’s environment has changed. Pediatric clinicians tell us over and over again how they wouldn’t practice pediatrics without Reach Out and Read, because they know from the evidence and their own experience that it makes an impactful difference in their patients’ trajectory.”
Reach Out and Read’s strength lies not only in their dedicated team members, pediatric partners and the wonderful families that they serve but also in their incredible network of caring volunteers and generous supporters. You too can support their efforts by donating books to a clinic or becoming a reading volunteer or donating.
“Along with various volunteer efforts we are taking on a special initiative in honor of our 30th anniversary, the 30 for 30 Campaign,” says Gallagher. “We want to reach 5 million children by 2021.”
With as little as a $30 donation you can provide the Reach Out and Read program to one child for an entire year and assist the organization in reaching more children in the coming year. Learn how you can help with 30 for 30 or how you can get more personally involved with all the initiatives that Reach Out and Read has to offer.
On a personal note, I’d contacted Reach Out and Read because their programs align with the Books Uplift mission. Both Brian Gallagher and Jennifer Tegan, Director of Marketing and Communications, were two of the most gracious people that I’ve had the opportunity to interact with.
The passion they share for early childhood literacy and dedication to their work is inspiration for us all.