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Reach Out and Read's Impact at the Holland Community Health Center

A guest blog written by Donna Lowry, MD, President and CEO of Ready for School, Holland, MI.

Ready for school

Starting with just one provider in 2010, Ready for School of Holland and Zeeland Michigan, believed that Reach Out and Read (ROR) would support its community wide commitment to kindergarten readiness.  It has done that and more!

The Holland Community Health Center (HCHC), which provides high quality care to children who are on Medicaid, is a different place then it was prior to starting ROR.  Bringing ROR to the Clinic has transformed health care delivery.  The respect and care for the whole child, the whole adult and the whole family is closely linked with bringing a literacy focus to the office.

Ready for kindergartenSusan Frost, Practice Manager, HCHC shares, "Reach Out and Read started us talking about reading with caregivers and children.  It set off a chain reaction of change, so now from the waiting room to the exam room, we celebrate literacy.  The ROR library was expanded to a lending library for older children and adults.  Our volunteer ROR coordinator, Mary Bosscher (pictured), is in the waiting room reading to children, working on puzzles and "I spys".  She also has conversations with older children and adults.  She gives book recommendations, talks about hobbies and connects people's interests with reading.   Reach Out and Read has been a big part of transforming the clinic culture."

Since 2010 Ready for School has partnered with over 50 health care providers to navigate ROR program guidelines and expectations as well as offering assistance for securing funding and coordination.

Multiple partner health care providers have indicated that the program has been a positive addition to their practice and experience for their patients.  Beth Peter, MD, a family practitioner shares, "The Reach Out and Read program has been incredible for me as a doctor. Giving a book to an anxious, tired child during a check-up changes the whole atmosphere! It's a way to remind everyone that we're on the same team - a team to help each child get cozy, comfortable, and able to reach their full potential. It's also great to know that the books we provide have a positive impact at home, too. Reading helps the bedtime routine, opens the mind to imaginative play, and strengthens the bond between caregiver and child."

Reach Out and Read (ROR) plays a vital role in our community wide multi-sector strategies for kindergarten readiness.  Linking literacy and health and opening up conversation about child development and learning is crucial for kindergarten readiness.  Transforming healthcare practice culture has been an incredible side effect!


Ready for school info

Written by Ready for School at 11:32

Aligning Reach Out and Read with Research

Extending our program to the first few months in accordance with research demonstrating the importance of the first few months to a child's foundation for success.

A guest blog from Teandra Ramos-Hardy, MSW, Director of Medical Engagement for Reach Out and Read Carolinas

Reach Out and Read in InfancyWe know from research that brains are built over time through a process that begins prenatally. The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University has an abundance of research confirming that the foundation for all future learning is shaped by early experiences, beginning at birth.  A brain's architecture does not grow in isolation; it is developed by interactions with both genes and experiences.  The early years are the most active period for establishing neural connections in the brain.  The environment where one lives and grows, and the exchanges that take place with people in the environment shape the capacities that emerge in the early years.    

In the very first few weeks and months of life, milestones can be seen that reinforce the construct of brain architecture.  A newborn does not immediately have neck control, but a newborn's head gradually wobbles less in the weeks after birth.  One of the best times to observe this is during tummy time.  A newborn will also become responsive to sounds, especially their mother's or caregiver's voice.  They will become drawn to the voice and respond by focusing in the direction of the sound.  A newborn can also communicate by being quiet, cooing or babbling, and reaching.

The postnatal period is a critical time for newborn babies and mothers and many changes occur during this period. Although manuals are helpful, they are not provided at discharge from the hospital, and the web is overloaded with information that can easily overwhelm new parents.  The pediatric provider is the filter and support system a family needs to navigate through information they'll receive to care for their newborn.  Lack of appropriate care during this time can result in significant issues lasting into adulthood.  Newborns and mothers should be assessed at regular intervals following delivery. Further evaluation can be achieved through referrals from the healthcare provider as needed.  The American Academy of Pediatrics has developed a periodicity schedule that providers can follow to assess the health of the newborn, and the health and emotional well-being of the mother. 

The newborn checkup is an important medical visit for the provider to assess the health and development of the newborn following discharge from the hospital.  This initial visit with the healthcare provider allows the family to begin building a relationship with the provider and the medical home as important resources for them and their child - a partnership that lasts throughout the life of the child.  Although the newborn checkup is for the new patient, it is equally important to focus on how the entire family is adjusting to the new addition to the family.  This visit sets the expectation for the two-generational relationship that is created, and includes asking questions, addressing concerns, and providing parent education and anticipatory guidance.

Reach Out and Read Early YearsProviders spend time educating and giving anticipatory guidance to parents.  It has been found that books effectively increase maternal knowledge of anticipatory guidance material and encourage social and emotional bonding between parents and babies.  During well-child visits, parents are educated on many topics, and are likely to recall less of the information as more topics are covered.  Given the brevity of pediatric visits, providers can target behaviors like reading, talking, singing, cuddling, and bonding that are important. Embedding Reach Out and Read in the standard of medical care offers additional opportunities to encourage parent-infant reading, which influences parent-child interactions, children's language development, and future reading ability. The value of the intervention has been shown in lower maternal depression scores, and reports of maternal enjoyment of reading, and time spent reading with their children.  This is significant because the AAP supports maternal depression screenings per "Incorporating Recognition and Management of Perinatal and Postpartum Depression Into Pediatric Practice," beginning at the one-month well-child visit.

The research supports the value of starting Reach Out and Read in infancy.  Through this early literacy intervention, providers can support parents and impact children's lives from the beginning.  Here in Reach Out and Read Carolinas, we are joining with a National Reach Out and Read initiative to align with science and incorporate a zero to 6-month component of the Reach Out and Read program, encouraging our providers to talk with the pediatric patient and family about the importance of engaging with infants and sharing books in the first few months.  Research on the impact of this early intervention will continue to inform and guide our rollout across the country.

Written by Teandra Ramos-Hardy at 17:07

Screen Free Week is May 1-7

Screen Free Week is May 1 – 7, a great time to promote family reading!
Written by Kathy Ingram, Laura Bailet at 14:30

Empowering Parents of Preschoolers with the Nemours Preschool Reading Screener

Reach Out and Read partners, Nemours BrightStart! have released the 2nd Annual Reading Readiness Snapshot for America's Preschoolers - a guest blog post from Laura Bailet and Kathy Ingram at Nemours BrightStart! 

Nemours logoLearning to read is a challenging task for the brain, and one of the most important developmental tasks facing young children.  Only about a third of U. S. students score as 'proficient' readers (Nation's Report Card, 2016). In response to overwhelming evidence that the foundation for successful reading is built in the early years, when a young child's brain is highly responsive, adaptable and attuned to learning language, the Nemours Children's Health System has created Nemours BrightStart to research, develop and offer evidence-based tools targeting young children at risk for reading failure. One of our tools, the Nemours online Preschool Reading Screener, is an effective, free screener that is widely available and easy to complete, to identify children in need of assistance early.

For children between birth and five years, developmental screening is often the domain of pediatricians, as part of routine developmental surveillance (Halfon et al., 2004).  However, even with well-established guidelines and reliable tools, nearly half of all children fail to receive recommended screening (Halfon et al., 2004; Sand et al., 2005). For children with subtle developmental problems, such as reading readiness delays, 70 percent or more may go undetected (Glascoe, 2000) with the current system.  Part of the challenge is time constraints for the pediatrician, and lack of an easy and effective screening tool.

Parents often play a central role in developmental screenings of their children.  Research shows that, if questions are clearly stated, they are able to respond accurately (Dewey, Crawford, & Kaplan, 2003; Fenson et al., 1994; Glascoe, 2000).  Studies also show that parental self-efficacy and parenting competence are positively correlated when parenting knowledge is high (Bornstein et al., 2010).  Yet parents' specific knowledge of key normal developmental indicators and milestones in the preschool years is low (Bornstein et al., 2010).

Nemours BrightStart!Completion of a straightforward screener thus may serve simultaneously to increase parents' knowledge, promote greater intentionality with early literacy activities at home, and improve future reading outcomes.  The Nemours' Preschool Reading Screener  is designed for this purpose.  It contains 31 questions organized into key reading readiness skills including oral language, letter knowledge, phonological awareness, and beginning writing.  Parents receive a rating of their child's skill levels and an action plan. Thousands of parents of 3-, 4- and 5-year old children have completed the screener and a summary of their results can be found in the 2nd Annual Reading Readiness Snapshot for America's Preschoolers released this week. The Snapshot reports:

Snapshot image

Out of a maximum possible 31 points, the average score for 3-year olds is 18; for 4-year olds, 23; and for 5-year olds, 26.  Not surprising, 3-year olds earn most of their points on oral language items and also have some beginning knowledge of rhyming and beginning sounds.  For 4-year olds, the emergence of letter knowledge is especially striking; nearly 68% of them are able to identify at least 18 upper case letters, a skill that is vital for being on track for reading success as they move into kindergarten.  More than 90% of 5-year olds demonstrate strong letter naming skills, and skill with letter sounds and with rhyming are also strong.  Blending words is easier for 5-year olds than breaking them apart.

The Snapshot shows how preschoolers are actually doing in reading readiness, according to the people who know them best: their parents.  With reasonable efforts to expose young children to books, language, drawing and writing, they will develop a solid foundation for future reading success.  Screening for early literacy skills can be empowering and motivating for parents; they want to know early if their child is on track with reading readiness skills, or may need increased home literacy activities and book reading opportunities.  It also helps parents understand connections between oral language, reading and writing, which in turn helps them offer a broader array of experiences, woven into their daily routines, that ultimately support reading development.


Bornstein, M. H., Cote, L. R., Haynes, O. M., Hahn, C., & Park, Y. (2010). Parenting knowledge: Experiential and sociodemographic factors in European American mothers of young children.Developmental Psychology, 46(6), 1677-1693.

Dewey, D., Crawford, S. G., & Kaplan, B. J. (2003). Clinical importance of parent ratings of everyday cognitive abilities in children with learning and attention problems.Journal of Learning Disabilities, 36(1), 87-95.

Fenson, L., Dale, P. S., Reznick, S., Bates, E., Thal, D. J., Pethick, S. J., . . . Stiles, J. (1994). Variability in communicative development.Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 59(5), 1-185.

Glascoe, F. P. (2000).  Early detection of developmental and behavioral problems. Pediatrics in Review, 21(8), 272-280.

Halfon, N., Regalado, H. S., Inkelas, M., Peck Reuland, C. H.,Glascoe, F. P., & Olson, L. M. (2004). Assessing development in the pediatric office.Pediatrics, 113(6), 1926-1933.

Nation's Report Card. (n.d.).2015 mathematics and reading assessments. Retrieved July 21, 2016, from

Sand, N., Silverstein, M., Glascoe, F. P., Gupta, V. B., Tonniges, T. P., & O'Connor, K. G. (2005). Pediatricians' reported practices regarding developmental screening: Do guidelines work? Do they help?Pediatrics, 116(1), 174-179.


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Written by Kathy Ingram, Laura Bailet at 14:30

Brush, Book, Bed - The Best Bedtime Routine

Reach Out and Read is partnering with the American Academy of Pediatrics to introduce the Brush, Book, Bed program
Written by Michelle Steffen, MD, FAAP; Lauren Barone, MPH at 14:30

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