The post “How Words Change Children’s Lives” described the major difference in the words that children from low-income families hear vs. the ones that middle and upper income children hear. We noted that any one who comes into contact with low-income mothers could encourage them to close this gap. Well, there is an established organization that is working to do that — through pediatricians!
“Reach Out and Read” uses wellness visits to the doctor for children between 6 months and 5 years to encourage parents and children to be active readers.
How it Works
Doctors and nurse practitioners are trained to:
- Give parents advice about the importance of language and reading to their children
- Prescribe reading aloud, every day.
- Give children an appropriate book at each visit.
The combination of the trust in the doctor/nurse and the repetition of the advice and encouragement have a big impact. This straightforward program has been evaluated many times. Among the 15 studies’ key findings:
- Parents addressed by Reach Out and Read are 4 times more likely to read to their children
- Children addressed by Reach Out and Read score 3-6 months ahead of their peers on vocabulary tests
Some of the studies also found other effects. For example, that both parents and children addressed by the program reported liking to read more than peers. Participating parents also reported higher enjoyment from reading to their children than did non-participating parents.
The Next 4 Million?
Four million children across the country are being served each year by centers that Reach Out and Read has trained. This is impressive, but so many more could benefit. Maybe you know of a pediatrician or family doctor’s office that could increase its impact and build a deeper bond of trust with its patients through this program. Be a catalyst. Send them this post.