Why We Work

A look into the science behind Reach Out and Read.

Reach Out and Read is working toward the day when all children enter kindergarten supported by highly engaged parents, ready to learn, and prepared to excel.

Most American Parents Are Not Reading to Their Children Daily

  • Fewer than half (48 percent) of young children in the United States are read to daily. Russ S, Perez V, Garro N, Klass P, Kuo AA, Gershun M, Halfon N, Zuckerman, B. Reading Across the Nation: A Chartbook (2007): Reach Out and Read National Center, Boston, MA.
  • In virtually every state, minority and low-income children are less likely to be read to every day than their non-minority and higher income peers. Russ S, Perez V, Garro N, Klass P, Kuo AA, Gershun M, Halfon N, Zuckerman, B. Reading Across the Nation: A Chartbook (2007): Reach Out and Read National Center, Boston, MA.
  • By age 3, children from lower-income families have heard roughly 30 million fewer words than their more affluent peers.  Hart, B. Risley, T. Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experiences of Young American Children (1995), Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.
  • Proficiency in reading by the end of third grade is a crucial marker in a child's education development. A stunning 66 percent of fourth graders in public school were reading below proficient levels in 2013. The Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2013 Kids Count Data Book, State Trends in Child Well-Being.

Why Some Parents Don't Read

  • Families living in poverty often lack the money to buy new books, as well as access to libraries.
  • Parents who may not have been read to as children themselves may not realize the value of reading to their own children.
  • So many families struggle with balancing the busy demands of work, extracurricular activities, and involvement in their communities. Together with more recent pulls toward social media and other screen activities, parents often face "time poverty," and find it difficult to carve out time to read with their children.
  • Children's early school performance improves when their parents are involved in helping them learn to read. Yet, many parents do not have the skills to read to their children.

Why Reach Out and Read Is an Effective Intervention

  • A trusted messenger: Parents trust and value the advice they receive from their child's medical provider. Reach Out and Read is unique in partnering with the child's first medical provider, in the special setting of the pediatric health examination to promote a child's literacy.
  • Broad scope and reach: Participating medical providers offer the Reach Out and Read intervention to all children at each well-child visit from 6 months through 5 years of age. Most children see their pediatrician at least 10 times during this period.
  • Hope for educational success: Reach Out and Read explicitly ties reading aloud to later school success; this strategy supports the aspiration that parents have for their children.
  • An army of volunteers: The Reach Out and Read intervention is delivered by a team of 20,000 volunteer doctors, nurses, medical staff, and caring adults. Because all Reach Out and Read doctors and nurses volunteer the time they spend on early literacy, the intervention is extremely cost effective.
  • Stretching every dollar: Deep discounts from publishers, as well as an innovative bulk-purchasing program, enable Reach Out and Read to buy more than twice as many books as it could at standard retail pricing. These prices permit us to serve more children at a lower program cost, and purchase the highest-quality book titles in 14 languages.

Read the Policy Case for Reach Out and Read (PDF)

Awards & Endorsements Recognition for Reach Out and Read's Impact Nationwide.
Endorsed By American Academy of Pediatrics
Award Winner 2013 David M. Rubenstein Prize
Endorsed by National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners
Literacy Partner American Academy of Family Physicians
Contact Reach Out and Read
Reach Out and Read National Center
89 South St, Suite 201
Boston, MA 02111

Parent Resources

A Prescription to Read 20 Minutes Every Day.

Suggested Reading:


Title: Mufaro
Author: John Steptoe
Reading To Your Five Year Old

Books are a wonderful way to introduce your child to experiences and stories outside of what is familiar to them. Reading expands their world!

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