| LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas, May 8, 2008 Wilford Hall Medical Center here has launched a new program emphasizing the importance of literacy to parents and children alike.
Reach Out and Read, a national nonprofit organization, uses several methods to promote early literacy as part of routine pediatric care, including having volunteers reading aloud in pediatric waiting rooms.
Its main approach, though, is to promote literacy during well-baby or well-child visits for children from ages 6 months through 4 years. Pediatric providers trained in the Reach Out and Read model offer age-appropriate tips to emphasize to parents and caretakers the importance of reading aloud to children. The parents also are encouraged to invent stories to go with pictures in the books.
During each of these visits, the child receives a new developmentally appropriate book to keep.
Reach Out and Reads programs are located in more than 3,700 hospitals and health centers in 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the United States Virgin Islands. Through these programs, more than 5.4 million new books are distributed each year to more than 3.4 million children and their families.
In 2007, Reach Out and Read teamed up with the Defense Department and its Office of Family Policy, Children and Youth to implement the institution of the organizations programs in up to 20 military health care facilities across the nation.
Research demonstrates that parents who are encouraged by their pediatric providers to read aloud to their children are more likely to do so, and consequently report reading aloud as a favorite activity to share with their children. Furthermore, children who are read to during the first years of life are much more likely to learn to read on schedule, contributing to later school success.
Reach Out and Read helps parents understand developmental stages, builds routines that reassure children, and develops skills and knowledge essential for families being tested by separation and deployment.
The organization is a supporter of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and companies with servicemembers and their families serving at home and abroad.
(Air Force Maj. (Dr.) Renee Cevey serves at Wilford Hall Medical Center.)