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Nurturing Lifelong Relationships Through the Power of Reading

In 1989, a groundbreaking initiative called Reach Out and Read (ROR) was established, centering on the vital role of clinicians in promoting childhood literacy. Picture this: a provider entering an exam room not just with medical tools but also carrying books – a bridge connecting families and children from as early as the first newborn visit. These healthcare providers take on the role of a coach, introducing culturally and developmentally appropriate books to families during well-child visits and prescribing reading as a powerful medicine for nurturing families, emphasizing the simple but powerful affirmation, “You, just the way you are, are enough.”

The ROR initiative has left a lasting mark on early education, serving 4.2 million children across 6,000 program sites in 50 states. Eight clinics actively participate in the Greater High Point area, offering 20,000 books in 11 languages, including German, Vietnamese, and Spanish, helping over 8,000 children. The program’s impact continues to grow, with projections estimating almost 30,000 well-visits annually as a new site prepares to join, further extending the life-changing reach of this program.

“Building positive shared reading relationships between a parent and a child is a magical thing,” – Pam Bacot, Reach Out and Read Senior Program Manager

What sets ROR apart is the emphasis on building shared reading relationships between parents and children. Doctors are reinvigorated in their practice by these meaningful encounters, transitioning from clinical evaluations to fostering learning and coaching moments with families. The focus is not merely on reading the words but on building trust, accessibility, and nurturing the health and development of every child, regardless of their background.

“I gave a book to a parent of a two-year-old whom we suspect might be on the autism spectrum. We talked about the significance of using the book to point at pictures and attempt to mimic the sounds. This guidance not only encouraged reading but also improved joint attention, proving particularly beneficial in this specific case.” – Dr. Andrea Scholer, Triad Adult and Pediatric Medicine

Research conducted in North and South Carolina validates ROR’s impact. “The Effect of Exposure to Reach Out and Read on Shared Reading Behaviors” study spanned six years and involved over 100,000 responses from doctors and parents. The study showed that families engaged with the ROR program are 27% more likely to engage in daily shared reading and exhibit positive reading behaviors, contributing to enhanced bonding and overall engagement.

“Our team in NC built the support structure behind ROR. Conducting the survey here provides invaluable testing experience with our model, guiding local families and contributing to the growth and validation of our approach.”– Callee Boulware, Regional Director, Reach Out and Read

ROR firmly believes in the pivotal role of parents and caregivers in a child’s life and how shared reading acts as a protective factor, even amidst stressors like poverty-related challenges. The intervention aims to ensure that every child in a community receives this essential care, fostering strong relationships that pave the way for success in school and beyond. Reach Out and Read is committed to further research, evolving to meet healthcare industry needs, and continuing its implementation science journey.

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