Reach Out and Read
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Reach Out and Read (ROR), is an American non-profit organization that advocates for childhood literacy. ROR was founded in 1989 at Boston City Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, and was based on the premise to "encourage parents to read regularly to their children and give them the tools (the books) to do so." The program was created as a solution to the growing literacy problem in the United States. ROR was founded by Pediatric physicians Barry Zuckerman and Robert Needlman as well as early childhood educator Kathleen Fitzgerald-Rice.
ROR seeks to encourage and enable parents to read to their children by offering them the skills and the tools to do so. At regular pediatric check-ups, ROR provides parents with books appropriate for children from six months to five years old, placing a special emphasis on economically disenfranchised children.
ROR makes literacy promotion a standard part of pediatric primary care, building upon the relationship between parents and health care providers. This pairing between pediatricians and parents works to ensure that children are instilled with a love of reading as well as a home library of their own. Clinics that are involved in the program frequently have waiting rooms set up to encourage reading as well, employing volunteer readers to model reading aloud. The organization encourages families to read together to promote early literacy skills so children may enter school prepared to succeed.
Since its establishment, ROR has grown significantly. It began receiving funding from the United States Department of Education in 2001 and the structure and mission have since evolved into a national model. Endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, ROR provides books for more than 3.8 million children and families in more than 4,500 clinics, health centers, and pediatric practices in the United States. The program distributes more than 6 million books annually. ROR has also spread its influence to include all fifty states of the United States, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the United States Virgin Islands.
Since ROR links health and literacy, doctors and nurses receive training as follows:
- At every well-child check-up, doctors and nurses encourage parents to read aloud to their young children, and offer age-appropriate tips and encouragement. Parents who are discovered to have difficulty reading are encouraged to invent their own stories to go with picture books and spend time naming objects with their children.
- Pediatricians, family physicians and nurses give every child between the ages of six months and five years a new, developmentally appropriate, children's book to keep.
- In literacy-rich waiting room environments, often with volunteer readers, parents and children learn about the pleasures and techniques of looking at books together.