Doctors Prescribe Reading to Young Children

Reach Out and Read continues to make books and reading part of well-child visits during the pandemic.

A baby receives a new book from a pediatrician working with Reach out and Read.

With the temporary closure of schools, daycares and other early literacy programming, the work of Reach Out and Read is more vital than ever. The organization gives away free books to newborns, prescribes books to children at their well-child visits and offers literacy guidance to parents.

Using a recently awarded grant from the Greater New Haven COVID-19 Community Fund, Reach out and Read (Northeast Region) is adapting to new regulations in order to continue delivering books to area pediatricians and families.

By reaching children early, before they enter school, Reach Out and Read helps families build a solid foundation for children to enter kindergarten prepared to learn and excel. The innovative national program has demonstrated its success with 15 published research studies showing that it develops early literacy skills and fosters healthy brain and social/emotional development.

A child is very excited about holding and looking at his brand-new book that had a picture of a baby on the cover. After staring at the picture for a few moments, he put the book in his mouth, which gave the provider an opportunity to discuss normal infant behaviors, motor skills and language development.

Medical providers working with Reach Out and Read bring age and culturally appropriate children’s books to well-child visits. Starting at the newborn visit and continuing through the child’s fifth birthday, providers also give parents research-based strategies for developing their child’s literacy skills. At the end of the visit, the book stays with the child, becoming part of his or her home library; the parent or caregiver is given a “prescription” to read aloud daily to the young child.

Reach out and Read was also recently supported with a three-year grant from The Community Foundation. During the grant term, providers with Reach Out and Read reached more than 6,000 children and families each year. The program also distributed 30,000 books to New Haven families during the three years. More than nine in ten caregivers who participated in the program reported reading to their children at least once a week and six in ten read to their children four or more times a week.

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

Did You Know?

In Connecticut, the program began in New Haven in 1995 with Dr. Laurel Shader at Fair Haven Community Health Center, and has since expanded to serve over 50,000 children through 88 clinical locations.

This story is part of the Inspiration Monday story series produced by The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven.