Doctors Make Literacy a Priority

One of the highlights of Mom Congress was hearing about the amazing work people do to help children. Reach Out and Read inspired me because of my own passion for literacy. It’s a program started by pediatricians to nurture the roots of literacy and encourage reading aloud to kids. Let me explain.

In the Doctor’s Office

We saw a short one minute video clip that was so inspiring — a doctor gave a dad the book, Snowy Day. The dad started to read to his child but the child wanted nothing to do with the book and mostly just screamed. After a several pages, the pediatrician walked over and asked the child directly, “Do you see the boy? Look, there’s the boy!” or something to that effect. She turned the page and asked the boy another question and the screaming stopped. She smiled, the boy smiled and the dad smiled and asked his son, “Do you see the . . . ?”

It was a moment of incredible learning and teaching. The pediatrician taught the dad by subtle example how to engage his child in a book.

Most of us in the room had tears in our eyes.

doctors help kids

What is Reach Out and Read?

Reach Out and Read is 27,000 pediatricians and family doctors in the United States. During every check up, the doctors talk with parents about the benefit of reading aloud and we give the child a new, beautiful, developmentally and approapriate and culturally senstivie book to use in the office and take home. Their approach is highly evidence based.

Co-founder, Dr. Robert Needlman, told us, “I think it’s extremely powerful for parents to see.”

After seeing the video, I completely agree.

Needlman added, “It’s not a book giveaway program.” He explained that the doctors are not just giving out books but skillfully showing parents how to engage young readers when reading aloud to their children.

Like other programs, Reach Out and Read’s federal funding has been cut and they’re worried about sustaining the quality of their program. You can help or find out more information on their website, Reach Out and Read, watch video clips on YouTube or become a Facebook fan.

Why Do We Need Reach Out and Read?

  • More than one-third (34%) of American children entering kindergarten don’t have basic language skills they need for reading.
  • Children who are read to in their early years are better readers than those who weren’t read to.
  • Fewer than half of parents (48%) in the United States read to their young children daily! (Yikes!)
  • Parents of children living in poverty may lack the money to buy books, may not have easy access to good children’s books, and may not themselves have been read to as children.

Remember what Byron Garrett reminded us of, you and I can change the world. Pediatricians can change the world. If you want the world to change, you must be the change.

For more information on advocacy or Mom Congress visit Mom Congress on Facebook.


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  1. says

    I think that it’s so great that pediatricians are helping to promote literacy and I LOVE The Snowy Day by Keats! Reach Out and Read is a great org! I think it was they who did a record setting event in which we all read A Snowy Day to our kids … ? I remember doing this when it wasn’t snowing here!

  2. Cynthia says

    Yes! This is powerful and points to the positive affects doctors can have on our lives when the whole person is taken into their view.


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