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Reach Out and Read has a Prescription for Success

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Ed. Note: This blog was originally posted by UpNext, the Official Blog of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The original post can be viewed here.

Reach Out and Read is pleased to announce the launch of our Prescription for Success Toolkit, designed to support collaborations between libraries, museums, and Reach Out and Read program sites, natural partners that have a collective impact on the lives of young children. 

In January 2015, we embarked on a yearlong project, Prescription for Success, funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The project is aimed at helping more families benefit from museum and library services that foster literacy development in young children. As a national nonprofit organization comprised of doctors, who promote early childhood literacy, Reach Out and Read has deep and broad relationships within the medical community. Prescription for Success has leveraged these connections to explore new ways doctors and their staffs can collaborate with museums and libraries.

Waiting_roomReach Out and Read is a nonprofit organization that gives books to children at pediatric checkups, and encourages families to read aloud to their infants and toddlers. For many of the low-income families that we serve, this is the first book in the home. Encouraging families to make use of local libraries and museums extends the impact of our program, giving them opportunities to read more books together, and to spend time enjoying library and museum activities. And library and museum staff can reinforce our message that engaging with young children through reading and playing together helps foster healthy brain development that gives them the best start in life.

Conversely, Reach Out and Read can further the special role that museums and libraries have in meeting the needs of America's youngest learners and their caregivers. With unparalleled access to young children through pediatric checkups, we are able to open the door to libraries and museums for many families, especially those struggling on a low-income, who might otherwise not know the value of these institutions.

IMLS_Rx_Pad The Prescription for Success Toolkit is a compilation of best practices learned from a survey of current state and local partnerships between Reach Out and Read, libraries, and museums. It provides ideas and resources for those who currently, or would like to, work together.

The toolkit encourages local libraries, museums, and Reach Out and Read program sites to open conversations with one another to explore common interests and learn about one another to build trust and community. It suggests ways they can support one another, such as clinics prescribing visits to the library using a prescription pad, libraries distributing Reach Out and Read materials or helping to create literacy-rich waiting rooms at Reach Out and Read clinics. Links to materials and resources and examples of successful established partnerships help with collaborations.

Written by Nikki Shearman at 12:00

Doctors Tell Us that Reach Out and Read Makes a Big Difference

We know that Reach Out and Read is an effective early literacy intervention from our extensive evidence base. Since its foundation, the Reach Out and Read model has been studied by a variety of academic investigators, providing an extensive body of peer-reviewed research on the effects of the program.  This shows that parents served by Reach Out and Read are up to four times more likely to read aloud to their children. Also, children served by Reach Out and Read score three to six months ahead of their non-Reach Out and Read peers on pre-school vocabulary tests.

Doctors Tell Us that Reach Out and Read Makes a Big Difference This analytical approach is compelling, but we also hear about how Reach Out and Read affects children's lives from the stories that our medical providers tell us. At the cutting edge of the program, they are able to put a human face on the Reach Out and Read story.

They see how excited infants and toddlers are to receive new books, especially in the low-income communities that Reach Out and Read often serves….

"I still am surprised when a family responds with "We don't have any books"! It is wonderful to see the smiles on the child's face when they take home their very own book!"

"The parents and children look forward to receiving books at their checkups. The children are eager to read out loud and look at the pictures. Sometimes this is the first and only time a child will receive a book."

"One little patient of mine had parents in the Military, who were going to be relocated across the country. His Mother told me that he was allowed to take one suitcase of "important things" - the rest would arrive in a week or two. He filled up half of his suitcase with his Reach Out and Read books!"

…How their guidance encourages parents to read to their children frequently……

 "We had given a book to a 6-month-old infant during the checkup. Mom said they did not have books at home. We talked about the importance of early literacy and a language-rich environment to help develop vocabulary and how it all affects brain development. Mom was very interested in what we talked about. But, when she noticed how intrigued baby was with the book, that was when she smiled and said "Maybe we need to get a couple more books because it seems that he likes them!""

…And, most importantly, how families reading together supports the healthy development of children in their care….

"Jayden was a 2-year-old when I first saw him. He was completely attached to his mom, made no eye contact, and spoke absolutely no words other than "mama" and "dada".  His mother was from a low-income background, going through a divorce, and said she could not afford evaluation or speech therapy. I spent about 30 minutes explaining the importance of reading aloud and having fun together. Slowly but surely Jayden showed progress, and at his last visit he came running to me, hugged me and said "Thank you Dr. K--" in a cute but intelligible way. I could understand close to 50% of all that he said, thanks to the Reach Out and Read books that I kept giving him every visit. Yes, books do make a difference, a big difference."

 

Written by Nikki Shearman at 10:45

The Importance of Encouraging Parents to Read Aloud to Their Young Children

There is a well documented and growing achievement gap between children growing up in the United States that starts in early childhood and persists through school and college into adulthood. It has become increasingly important to determine the factors that affect child development, both positively and negatively, so as to identify how we can give every child the opportunity to grow up into well-rounded adults. This is important for the future of our families, our communities and our nation.

Encouraging Parents to Read Aloud to Their Young Children

Advances in neuroscience technology over the last two decades have allowed us to chart human brain development. The evidence is still accumulating, but it is now well established that our brains develop most rapidly during the first few years of life. The brain has reached 95% of its full size by the age of six.1

Areas of the brain associated with specific skills develop sequentially - the sensory pathways develop first, followed by connections that result in language capability, followed by higher cognitive function. What is most significant is that maximal development for all functions occurs during the first five years of life.3

Child development studies have shown that the architecture of the early developing brain is influenced by a child's experience. Nurturing from a loving parent or caregiver stimulates the brain to develop the circuits that provide the foundation for emotional well-being, social competence and cognitive abilities. Conversely, adverse experiences prevent the brain from developing to its full capacity.

The best time to have an impact on children's achievement is during this critical window of early brain development, from birth through five years. And the best way of positively influencing early brain development is to strengthen the capacity of adults to nurture their children. Giving parents guidance about cuddling, talking to, and playing with their infants and toddlers will help them to support their child's development.

So, how do we reach parents of young children with this guidance?

This is where Reach Out and Read comes in! Our program is integrated into the pediatric healthcare system, so that we have repeated and unparalleled access to families with children from birth through five years at well-child checkups. Over 84% of children visit a pediatric healthcare provider during their first year.  By offering guidance about reading aloud to infants and toddlers, as a simple way of encouraging language-rich nurturing, our medical providers can help parents to give their children the best start in life.

1Lenroot, R.K. & Giedd, J.N Brain development in children and adolescents: Insights from anatomical magnetic resonance imaging. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 30 (2006) 718-729 


 

Written by Nikki Shearman at 09:04

Giving Books Should Be as Routine as Giving Immunizations

 

Reach Out and Read is changing the way pediatrics is practiced by giving medical providers an evidence-based strategy to promote healthy child development.

Giving Books Should Be as Routine..

Twenty six years ago, two Boston Medical Center pediatricians recognized their unique opportunity to have an impact on the development, as well as on the health, of the children they served. They adopted a simple model of prescribing books and reading aloud as a means of fostering the language-rich interactions between parents and their young children that stimulate early brain development. 

The effectiveness of this model has been established by peer-reviewed, published studies showing that the children served are read to more often by their parents, have improved language skills, and a greater love of reading.

Over the last two decades, the Reach Out and Read model has been widely adopted by the pediatric healthcare community. The program is now practiced by 21,000 medical providers, at 5,500 program sites across the nation, and is spreading rapidly. In 2013, the American Academy of Pediatrics promoted our program in a policy statement "Literacy Promotion: An Essential Component of Primary Care Pediatric Practice", that stated:

"By initiating early support for reading aloud….pediatric providers can leverage their unique opportunity to influence children in the very early years of life."

We are committed to continuing to improve our influence on childhood development by supporting research into the impact of early literacy promotion through our Reach Out and Read Young Investigator Awards.

This year, significant interest was generated by groundbreaking research  from one of our Reach Out and Read Young Investigator awardees at the Pediatric Academic Societies conference. Dr. John Hutton, working at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, used MRI imaging of young children's brains to show that reading aloud is associated with differences in brain activity that supports early reading skills.

There were a number of other research presentations at the meeting based on Reach Out and Read, and, as Dr. Tom DeWitt, co-chair of the Reach Out and Read board commented "It's exciting to see so many people exploring different aspects of the intervention - and further evidence of the way that Reach Out and Read has become embedded in pediatric practice and good quality care".

Written by Nikki Shearman at 09:30

Creating Fond Memories of Reading Together With the People Who Love Us

When we look back on our childhood, many of us have fond memories of being read to, of snuggling up and enjoying a favorite story with the people who love us. And it's not so much the story that we remember, but the feeling of love and security that it gave us. My father sat and cuddled my brother, my sister and me every evening when he came home from work. We would sit all together on the bed in our PJs, and he would read us a story, or, if we were really lucky, make up one of his own. My favorite was about a cabbage that uprooted itself and went on a journey to become king of the vegetables!

Creating Fond Memories of Reading TogetherIt turns out that what has been a time-honored tradition in so many families is actually a wonderful way of helping children to reach their full potential. We now know that when parents spend time focusing on their young children, it stimulates their brains to create connections that last a lifetime. Reading aloud gives children important early literacy skills and a love of reading. More importantly, the act of enjoying time together as a family creates the bonds that will give children a foundation for future learning and for building loving relationships.

At Reach Out and Read, we believe that all families should have the tools and information needed to make reading aloud a daily routine. There are many parents who want to do the best for their children but don't know that the simple act of reading aloud to their infants and toddlers every day can make a world of difference.

Our Reach Out and Read doctors and nurses have unparalleled access to families with young children at a time when many are not given any other formal advice about parenting. They give a new book to each child at their pediatric check-ups, and guidance about the importance of reading together.

It is a privilege to be able to help families create their own memories of reading aloud together. A Reach Out and Read doctor in Saucier, MS, told us this story:

"I know that Reach Out and Read makes a difference to my patients. When I give my patients their first book at the 6 month old well-child visit, I am often told this is the only book in the home. The simple gift of one book opens a door of possibility in the minds of the child's parents. For the first time they consider the value of books in the home life of their child. They usually come back at the next well-child visit saying they have acquired a few other books for the child that he enjoys sharing with his parents."

Written by Nikki Shearman at 09:00

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Reach Out and Read National Center
89 South St, Suite 201
Boston, MA 02111