At pediatricians' offices partnered with the Reach Out and Read program, young patients receive more than an annual check-up. Every child under 5 gets a book to take home after each visit, WHYY reports.
In an effort promote the benefits of reading at home, Reach Out and Read was founded in 1989 by a pair of Boston pediatricians. The doctors knew that young children, including newborns, pay close attention to the sounds around them, like those of their parents reading to them. The evidence in favor of reading books to kids at an early age has only grown since then. A study published in 2018 found that kids who grow up in homes filled with books develop better reading, math, and digital communication skills. According to a different study from that year, reading aloud to kids promotes good behavior and sharpens their attention.
But not all families have easy access to books for young readers. The goal of the Reach Out and Read program is not only to highlight the importance of reading to kids of new parents, but to give them the tools to do so. Reach Out and Read clinics give free books to kids starting when they're 6 months old and continue with each doctor's appointment up to age 5. Since the organization was founded 30 years ago, it has spread to all 50 states, and it currently serves 4.7 million children in the U.S., half of whom belong to low-income families.
Clinic bookshelves include books of varying reading levels, starting with board books, and at some locations, a diverse selection of languages. Participating clinics rely on donations to purchase their books new or gently used.
Even if kids have a tablet to read from at home, the free print story books can still be beneficial: Research shows that reading out loud from physical books rather than reading from screens leads to richer interactions between parents and children.