Reach Out and Read doctors
are starting to guide parents about the importance of talking,
singing, reading and playing with their babies as early as the
Our organization has
traditionally promoted the importance of reading aloud to children
aged 6 months through 5 years. Reach Out and Read was founded in
1989 to take advantage of the unique opportunity that pediatricians
have to affect the development, as well as the health, of the
children they serve, especially those from low-income communities.
A simple model was established of giving books to children and
advice to families about the benefits of reading aloud together
starting at the 6-month pediatric checkup. This reflected a
tactical awareness that a 6-month old child can sit up on a
parent's lap, and begin to grab and move the pages of a board
However, advances in our understanding of early childhood
development over the last 25 years have shown us that it is
essential to encourage parents to engage with their infants right
from birth. The first six months of life is a period of rapid brain
development that does not occur at any other time, and is a
critical window when parental responsiveness can shape a child's
development (for more details, please read our previous
blog post). Accordingly, in 2014, the American Academy of
Pediatrics released a
policy statement recommending literacy promotion in primary
care starting at birth.
In recognition of this, the Reach Out and Read leadership has
announced a move to start the program earlier, such that it will
now officially serve children from birth through 5 years.
"We believe that this will help us to do our job more
effectively with families, bring us clearly into alignment with
current scientific thought and best practices, and help us partner
more effectively with other organizations in the field" explained
Brian Gallagher, Executive Director of Reach Out and Read.
Reach Out and Read Medical Advisors have urged the 21,000
healthcare providers practicing the program to start recommending
to parents the importance of talking, singing, reading and playing
with their babies as early as the newborn visit. Materials, such as
our popular Developmental
Milestones chart, have been revised to reflect the change, and
training will support the program expansion.
"We are considering carefully and seriously how best to get
guidance to parents during those complicated, joyous, and sometimes
overwhelming months when they are learning to care for their new
babies." said Perri Klass, Reach Out and Read National Medical
Director. "We want Reach Out and Read providers to use those
formative early visits in the most helpful, practical,
developmentally appropriate, supportive ways, helping parents
develop the responsive, positive, language-rich interactions, which
should surround babies from the very beginning."