Medicine to Help Prevent Reading Difficulties: The Reach Out and Read Program

It is National Volunteer Month and I have been contemplating how I would like to contribute to my community. Recently, I learned about Reach Out and Read (ROR) and I am amazed by everything I read about this program. Therefore, I have chosen to volunteer my time by promoting the program and by reading aloud to children in a participating pediatrician’s office. I hope that after reading this post, you choose to do the same.

Why am I so passionate about this program? As a reading specialist, I understand that what happens in the home in a child’s first five years greatly affects how the child performs in school. The landmark study, “Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children” (Hart & Risley, 1995), demonstrates that the less parents talk to their children in the home before the school age years, the smaller vocabulary the child will have upon entering school. Some students are actually entering school with a 30 million word deficit! This saddens me greatly because reading research has repeatedly demonstrated that vocabulary size is closely linked to reading comprehension and overall academic success. In other words, it will be extremely hard for a child with such a deficit to catch up–even in the best of conditions.

The Reach Out and Read program cites the Hart & Risley study throughout its literature and I discussed it here: What Happens in the Home Before Kids Start School Affects Their Vocabulary and Overall Academic Success.

How do we help overcome this 30 million deficit? We get to the parents while their children are between the ages of 0 to 5. That is exactly what the Reach Out and Read program does. Pediatricians in this program help parents understand the importance of talking with their children, reading aloud to them, and making sure their children know how books work before they enter school.

The Reach Out and Read Program has been around since 1989, so I wonder why I have only learned about it recently. I also wonder if you knew about it before you read this post. I also wonder if your child’s pediatrician (if you have children) participates in the program. I would really love to hear from those who have first-hand experience with this program. If you do, I would really love to hear all about it in the comment section below.

To learn more about the program, watch the following three videos.

This video explains why Reach Out and Read is needed:

This video explains the three components of Reach Out and Read and why it is a win-win situation for children, parents, and pediatricians:

This video shows what well baby visits look like with pediatricians involved with the Reach Out and Read program:

To learn more about this great program, you can visit their website at:

Here are a couple of things I found interesting on their site:

  1. Reach Out and Read Locations (Click on the map to see locations near you.)

  2. State-by-State Data on Reading Aloud Note: As a Californian, I was saddened to see that, “Statewide, 44.6% of [Californian] parents report reading to their child every day, ranking 42nd of 51″ and that, “California has the lowest number of public libraries per child under age five years in the nation.”

I would be overjoyed if you shared this post with the pediatricians in your area who do not participate in this program–especially if they are convinced to join! Currently, our nation is not doing enough to reach the parents. The Reach Out and Read program seems to be an ideal way to reach them. As the Reach Out and Read’s CEO says in this article, American Heart: Earl Phalen, Teaching Kids to Read,

The real genius of “Reach Out and Read” is that reading takes on the power of a doctor’s prescription. “When your doctor says, ‘This is good for your child’s health,’ 99 percent of us will do something,” said Phalen, and he has the numbers to back up the claim.”

Here is a link for pediatricians who are interested in participating in this most important program: Reach Out and Read Information for Pediatricians.

P.S. Reach Out and Read is on Facebook and Twitter. :D

Note: If you have taken the time to read this, would you please take a second to click on the stars below to rate this post on a scale of 1 to 10? Thanks a bunch–I always appreciate feedback. In addition, if you like a comment, I encourage you to click on the “Like” button so the “Sort by” drop-down menu will be useful. Thanks again and happy TWRCing! :)

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