Blogger Public Awareness Committee, Child Advocacy, Early Literacy, Partnerships

Reach Out and Read Promotes Early Childhood Literacy

Did you know that a well-child visit to the doctor’s office can also help to promote early literacy and school readiness? It can if your well-child appointment is with one of the 5,200 medical providers who participate in the Reach Out and Read Program.

One new Reach Out and Read Program site, the Bethesda Family Practice in Cincinnati, Ohio, reached out to their local Norwood Branch Library, which is a medium-sized branch in the Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County system, for assistance in setting up their waiting room Literacy Corner. The Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County’s Marketing department donated full-color literacy posters with Book Suggestions for Babies and Toddlers and a growth chart on the side. Also displayed in the Literacy Corner is the current monthly calendar of events and story times available at the Norwood Branch Library. This is just one example of how children’s librarians can reach out to their communities to promote early childhood literacy. Try sending area medical providers an email directing them to the Reach Out and Read website at

As recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, Reach Out and Read incorporates early literacy into pediatric practice, by integrating children’s books and advice to parents about the importance of reading aloud into well-child visits. Reach Out and Read builds on the unique relationship between parents and medical providers to develop critical early reading skills in children.

Reach Out and Read serves more than 4 million children and their families annually. Currently, Reach Out and Read partners with more than 5,200 program sites and distributes 6.5 million books per year. The program serves more than one-third of all children living in poverty in this country, and continues to grow each year with the vision that one day the Reach Out and Read model will be a part of every young child’s checkups.

The Reach Out and Read model for literacy promotion has three key elements:

  • Primary care providers (doctors, NPs, PAs and RNs) are trained to deliver early literacy guidance to parents of children 6 months through 5 years of age during each well-child visit. This age-appropriate guidance centers on the importance of: frequent and early exposure to language, looking at board books and naming pictures with infants, rhyme and repetition for gaining phonemic awareness during toddlerhood, and reading interactively (such as using open-ended questions) when reading with preschoolers.
  • During well-child visits for children ages 6 months through 5 years, the provider gives the child a new, developmentally-appropriate book to take home, building a collection of 10 new books in the home before the child goes to kindergarten. The provider also repeatedly prescribes reading aloud, every day.
  • Reach Out and Read program sites also create literacy-rich environments that may include gently-used books for waiting room use or for siblings to take home. In some waiting rooms, Reach Out and Read volunteers model for parents the pleasures and techniques of reading aloud to very young children.

Reach Out and Read is endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, the Literacy Partner American Academy of Family Physicians and is a Library of Congress David M. Rubenstein Prize 2013 Award Winner. For more information visit

Debbie Anderson is a Children’s Librarian at the Norwood Branch Library of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County in Ohio, and she is writing this post for the Public Awareness Committee. You can reach her at

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