In early July of 2003, First Lady Jean Rounds sent a letter to all South Dakota health providers caring for children. The letter was an invitation to join her in offering the Reach Out and Read® Program to the children of our state.
What is Reach Out and Read?
Reach Out and Read (ROR) is a health provider based early literacy program developed at Boston City Hospital in 1989, by pediatricians and educators to encourage literacy development in young patients. The three key components of ROR are:
During the well-child visit, physicians and nurse practitioners advise parents about the importance of reading with young children and offer age-appropriate tips and encouragement.
Children receive a new, developmentally and culturally appropriate children’s book to take home and keep at every well-child visit from six months to five years of age.
- In some clinics, volunteers read with children in the clinic waiting room, exposing children to books and modeling reading aloud and the pleasures of looking at books together for parents.
Why an early literacy program in a medical setting?
Doctors have always gone beyond treating illness to trying to prevent problems, including injuries and poor nutrition. Promoting literacy is an important and natural step in the evolution of preventative pediatrics. And ROR is rewarding to clinicians! Giving books to children is rewarding because the children are pleased and the books are helpful. Having a trusted physician give the book seems to be important to the parents. It validates their aspirations for the child to be a learner, to do well in school and in life.
Why is it important for children to be exposed to books and reading from an early age?
A 1985 National Commission of Reading study reported that reading aloud to children is the single most important activity for literacy development and eventual reading success. Studies have shown that children who are read to from an early age are more successful at learning to read.
Does the program make a difference?
A peer-reviewed published study of this intervention showed that parents involved in ROR were four times more likely to read or “book share” with children. The most high-risk mothers, those on welfare, were eight times more likely to read to their children if their doctors were following the ROR model.
What kind of training do the health providers need?
The primary goal of provider training is to help physicians learn techniques to work effectively with parents and children around issues of books and literacy. A one time training session (which can be via videotape, DDN network, or an in-person training session) will address such issues as: early literacy, the effects of poverty on reading readiness, design of the ROR model, distribution of books, and general tips for incorporating books into a medical practice.
What about the books?
High quality children’s books are the heart of the Reach Out and Read program. Books should be new, appealing, and selected to be developmentally and culturally appropriate. Careful thought needs to be given to book selection. The books recommended by ROR are selected based on experience, feedback and input from parents, experts in children’s literature, and children’s book publishers.
The First Lady and Governor Mike Rounds are committed to this early childhood literacy effort and have promised to provide the necessary books to any health care provider who is interested in supporting the Reach Out and Read program. The Governor has asked the Office of Child Care Services to coordinate the efforts to offer this program statewide.