Books & Pediatricians: A Healthy Pair

Learn about the Madison-based office of a national nonprofit organization that teams with health care providers to promote literacy in low-income children.

For young children, doctor's visits can be scary. Toys or lollipops are often offered to help comfort and console. Thanks to one Madison-based nonprofit, a healthier gift makes pediatric checkups a pleasure, while encouraging the child's development for years to come.

Reach Out and Read Connecticut distributes nearly 70,000 books each year.

Reach Out and Read Connecticut, the local office of a national organization, teams with health care providers to promote literacy in low-income children. At each pediatric checkup, the medical provider educates caregivers on the importance of reading, giving them a new book to take home. The book fulfills multiple roles, calming and engaging the child, while also enabling the medical provider to assess the child's development. Additionally, the gifted book becomes part of a "prescription" to the caregiver to read aloud daily to the young child.

Dr. Cathy Wiley, Medical Director for Reach Out and Read Connecticut, explains the power of this program through the story of one family. "When I gave a book to the youngest child, the parents explained that they kept every book in a special bag and each night they took out the books and read them with their three children." The magic of that simple act meant that the family, "not only internalized the reading message, but they absorbed the practice of reading routines into their daily life." Carla, a member of that reading family, has since gone on to graduate from college, an achievement that is rare for the disadvantaged families that Dr. Wiley serves.

The American Academy of Pediatrics promotes Reach Out and Read's approach as an essential component of well-child visits. The innovative program is also supported by 15 published research studies demonstrating its success in developing early literacy skills and fostering healthy brain and social/emotional development. Children served by Reach Out and Read are read to more often, have better expressive and receptive language skills, and are better prepared for success in school.

Support from individuals and foundations, such as The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven (which awarded a grant in 2013 from unrestricted funds and the Henry E. and Nancy Horton Bartels Fund for Education) help the organization assist nearly 40,000 children and families through 71 clinical locations throughout Connecticut and distribute nearly 70,000 new books each year.

To learn more about this nonprofit, read the Reach out and Read Connecticut profile [with video] on®.

Did You Know?

90% of brain development takes place during the first 5 years of a child's life.
Source: Zero to Three, FAQs on the Brain