Reach Out and Read
Reach Out and Read at Bellevue Hospital makes books and parent counseling a routine part of pediatric care, starting at a baby’s six month check-up! Reach Out and Read encourages reading aloud as a regular, joyful home activity that can improve language development, parent child interactions and school success. One of the greatest gifts we can give a child is a love of reading, and it is never too early to begin.
Watch Pediatricians Add Reading to Essential Health Check-Up List on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.
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The mission of Children of Bellevue’s Reach Out and Read is to prepare New York’s youngest children to succeed in school by partnering with doctors to prescribe books and encourage families to read together. As part of a national Reach Out and Read (ROR) initiative, pediatricians, parent educators, and volunteer readers at Bellevue Hospital work together to help parents understand the importance of reading aloud and to give books to children at pediatric checkups from 6 months through 5 years of age, with a special focus on children growing up in poverty. Research shows that being read to early and often creates a strong foundation for later learning and ultimate success in school. Being read to also promotes a love of books and reading in young children. The ROR model facilitates this important developmental activity in several ways.
In the clinic waiting room, trained community volunteers engage children of all ages in reading activities. The volunteers don’t simply read aloud; they model book-related interactions for parents who sit nearby and watch.
A ROR parent educator makes in-depth contacts with parents,pointing out their child’s reaction to the books, talking about the importance of language and literacy in the early years and giving advice about reading. The counseling sets the stage for the doctors’ intervention.
Pediatricians give children a new book to take home at every check-up, from six months to five years. These books are carefully chosen based on developmental and cultural appropriateness. Children participating in the ROR program will start school with a library of at least 10 books in their homes.
Pediatricians give parents age appropriate advice about the importance of reading aloud during well-child visits. The most important thingparents can do to increase a child’s success in learning to read is to read to that child. Even parents who themselves cannot read can teach their child a love of books by looking at books with their child.
Evidence of Impact
ROR is a program with a proven impact on the lives of families as a study published in Pediatrics in 2001 by Alan Mendelsohn MD et al of NYU/Bellevue showed:
Parents read aloud to their children by at least one more day per week compared to a control group
Children showed a 6 month in receptive language and 3 month advancement in expressive language development (respectively), compared to a control group
ROR families reported owning and having read at least 5 more books than a control group
Current Statistics (Based on one year of programming)
Bellevue’s Reach Out and Read is a highly visible program that has proven to be successful at addressing the issues described above.
- 12,412 new books were distributed to approximately 5,000 children 6 month to 5 years of age
- 4,000 children (over 5 years) receive donated books
- This past year 67 volunteers have read for a total of 2,027 hours to approximately 16,000 children of all ages
Background Information and Population Served
Bellevue Hospital’s pediatric clinic is in a unique position to offer ROR’s successful early literacy intervention model to those who most need it. The majority of families visiting the clinic come from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds, are single-parent households, and have limited economic and social resources.
There are about 65,000 total visits to the pediatric outpatient clinic each year, including about 35,000-40,000 visits to general pediatrics. The clinic serves a multi-ethnic population (72% Hispanic, 15% Asian, 8% Black, 5% White). About half of the families are recent immigrants who speak English as a second language; 80% of children have public insurance, 10% have private insurance, and 10% are uninsured.
We also have the rare opportunity to reach parents with very young infants to help them understand the importance of looking at books with their babies before they can talk. The infant’s excited reaction when shown an age-appropriate book is a key ingredient in the success of our program.
Range of Programming
We have continued to expand the ROR model at Bellevue Hospital to include:
- Our Pediatric Dental Clinic Reach Out and Read Program is one of the only such programs in the country. Pediatric dentists give out books about sleep issues (to help parents substitute reading before bed for bottles before bed, hopefully cutting down on “milk bottle carries”) and books about teeth (loose teeth, tooth fairies, going to the dentist, etc.).
- Our Reach Out and Write Program encourages parents to make writing a natural and fun part of their interactions with their children. While the families wait to see their pediatrician, a “big kids” writing table and a toddler writing table are set up and parents are encouraged to participate – for example, writing about their experience coming to America. Toddlers sit nearby and practice important prewriting skills.
- Our newROR Healthy Eating/Active Lifestyle Initiative supports existing obesity prevention activities in the clinic. The ROR parent educators have added healthy eating content to their language and early literacy counseling. Volunteer readers are trained to use books with food and eating themes (e.g., “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” by Eric Carle) to encourage discussion with the children about healthy eating. Staff and specially trained volunteers give bilingual tours to the new Bellevue Farmers Market and introduce families to the benefits of eating fresh, locally grown foods.
- Our H.E.L.P. (Health Education and Literacy for Parents) Project meets the literacy needs of parents in the clinic by offering “waiting room activities” that provide strategies for improving their own health and optimizing the health, growth, and development of their children. Using the Reach Out and Read model, staff and specially trained volunteers work together with families while they wait to see their pediatrician. Special plain language, multilingual and bilingual materials have been designed for the HELP Project.
A pediatrician’s thoughts about Reach Out and Read
“I think of Reach Out and Read almost the way I think about immunizations.
As a pediatrician, I can prevent infections by giving children immunizations. Reach Out and Read is like a vaccine that can help prevent developmental problems and that is a wonderful thing. Reach Out and Read is about getting all children off to the right start.”
–Alan Mendelsohn, M.D., NYU School of Medicine/Bellevue Hospital Center
To learn more about Children of Bellevue’s Reach Out and Read, watch these videos:
Children of Bellevue’s Reach Out and Read, narrated by Julianne Moore
“Leyendo Juntos: Reading Together”, Reach Out and Read for Latino Families, narrated by Julianne Moore
“In Their Own Words: Latino Parents talk about their experience with ROR at