Promoting Early Literacy in Pediatric Practice: Twenty Years of Reach Out and Read
Reach Out and Read (ROR) is the first pediatric, evidence-based strategy to prevent problems of early childhood development and learning. With a start in a single clinic in Boston City Hospital in 1989, doctors working in >4000 clinics and practices gave approximately 5.7 million new books to >3.5 million children in all 50 states in 2008. ROR also has become a model for a different way of thinking about parent education during primary care encounters, based less on telling and more on creating real-time learning experiences. ROR flourished because of (1) the growth of pediatric interest in child development, (2) local leadership of pediatric champions as well as nonmedical supporters, coordinators, and volunteers, (3) evidence of effectiveness, and (4) public financial support attributable to strong bipartisan support in Congress, led by Senator Edward Kennedy. Since ROR started, an increasing amount of research confirms the importance of reading aloud for the development of language and other emergent literacy skills, which in turn helps children get ready for school and leads to later success in reading. Future goals include continued growth until all low-income children are reached with pediatric advice and books, a national campaign led by physicians encouraging all parents to read to their children every day, additional evidence-based, parent information to increase the effectiveness of parents reading to children, quality-improvement efforts to achieve the full potential, and global expansion.
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