The official definition of a book
is "a collection of printed pages bound inside a cover", but we all
know that a book is so much more than that. A book can have many
different meanings, depending on whose hands are holding it. For
some, it is an escape from the humdrum of everyday life, for some,
a journey into worlds they would not otherwise experience, and for
others, a source of valuable information, ideas and opinions that
enrich their lives.
The books that Reach Out and Read doctors and nurses give to a
young child at their well-child visit are more than the story
inside! They are a tool used to encourage parents to read
aloud regularly to their young children, a means of improving early
literacy skills in the communities they serve, a way of leveling
the playing fields.
Mounting evidence shows that what
happens in infancy and toddlerhood sets the stage for achievement
later in life. Improving literacy skills during a child's
first five years, a critical period of brain development, is an
effective way of helping all children to enter school with the
foundations for success at school and life beyond.
The Reach Out and Read program
builds on the unique relationship between parents and medical
providers to develop early reading skills in children. At each
well-child visit, our doctors and nurses give their young patients
a new book to take home, along with age-appropriate guidance to
parents about the importance of reading aloud to their infants and
In many cases, the book given at a
well-child visit is the first book the family has ever owned, and
becomes a much-treasured story. One doctor told us:
"We care for many low-income families, and I love bringing
a book in for a toddler and watching the parents' reaction to the
child's face lighting up when he or she receives the book. By 18
months of age, it's so obvious that the children have been read to
on a consistent basis."
By the time a child enters
kindergarten, they have a home library of at least 10 books, and
parents who read aloud to them to make these books come alive.