Many of us have magical memories connected to children’s books. They touch our imaginations and often the relationships we value most. These experiences, along with a growing body of research, send a clear message: reading books to children changes lives, both the lives of children and the lives of those reading to them.
The Boston-based Reach Out and Read program has been promoting reading between parents or caregivers and children as part of pediatric check-ups for more than 25 years. Since its start in 1989, the group has given age-appropriate books to children at these visits along with demonstrations of how to read to children in a nurturing way.
Over time, the Reach Out and Read method has expanded to additional clinics and has been studied to assess its impact. Currently, more than 15 peer-reviewed studies show consistent findings: Reach Out and Read is an important part of empowering children to live the healthiest lives possible. Specifically, the program leads to increased child language development, literacy and school readiness.
Parents who use the program are much more likely to read to their children and report that reading to their children is one of their most valued activities. Importantly, these findings are strongest for families living in poverty. In addition, regular nurturing activities such as reading to children build resiliency, or the ability for children to overcome challenging life experiences such as poverty, neglect and exposure to violence. In summary, Reach Out and Read is an important part of empowering children to live the healthiest lives possible.
Intermountain Healthcare is currently expanding its connection to Reach Out and Read by increasing the number of clinics participating in the program. The focus is particularly centered on helping families with limited resources get access to children’s books as well as teaching parents and caregivers how to engage in nurturing activities with their children.
Funding for the program comes from contributions by medical providers for their own clinics as well as charitable contributions from the community. Recently, a Reach Out and Read fund has been established within the Intermountain Foundation to directly support the purchase of children’s books. Think for a moment of the impact of small and simple things such as reading to a child. Take a moment to remember the magic of children’s books. Then take time to Reach Out and Read. For more information about this program, email Dr. Davis at Neal.Davis@imail.org or visit reachoutandread.org.