Reach Out and Read Colorado gives young children a foundation for success by incorporating books into pediatric care and encouraging families to read aloud together.
Beginning as a national movement in Boston, MA in 1989, Reach Out and Read was developed as a collaboration among doctors and early childhood educators who examined empirical evidence of developmental discrepancies among low-income children not exposed to books at an early age. These disparities persist and perpetuate throughout life, creating a debilitating cycle of poverty, toxic stress, and negative health outcomes. Reach Out and Read was implemented as a proactive intervention to remove and reform systemic inequities in health and literacy through emphasizing the importance of families reading together when an infant's brain development is at its most formative stage.
In 1997 the national movement spread to Colorado with clinics signing on to the Reach Out and Read program. The Reach Out and Read Colorado coalition was formed in 2003 to provide a communication and networking structure, evaluation, training, visibility and funding to purchase books. Reach Out and Read Colorado now operates in 328 healthcare clinics throughout ethnically and geographically diverse regions in all of Colorado's 64 counties, providing direct program service to nearly 130,000 children with a special focus on those growing up in poverty.
Reach Out and Read prepares Colorado's youngest children to succeed in school by partnering with doctors to prescribe books and encourage families to read together.
One of my most memorable experiences with Reach Out and Read was both reaffirming and heartbreaking. I was seeing a 5 yr old girl for her well child check. She had been healthy so I had not seen her since her previous well child check the year before. I walked in with a brand new book and launched into my spiel, "… 'as you know, we give a brand new book at each well child visit until 5 yrs old as a part of a program called Reach Out and Read…'"
The mom interrupted and said, "oh yes! Last year you gave us The Ugly Duckling it was the first book we ever owned at our house. We read it every night. She then looked over at the girl, who was paging through the book, and said to her with such excitement in her voice, "so now we'll have TWO books a home!" It shows how important Reach Out and Read is to our families, but it still breaks my heart to think that for some families, two books is such a luxury."
-Meghan Treitz, MD, Child Health Clinic at Children's Hospital Colorado.