Pediatricians and nurses at Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center are sending families home from checkups with free books and a very important prescription – “read aloud to your children every day.” Today, Senator Karen Spilka (D-Ashland), visited the health center, not only to cheer them on, but to practice what doctors preach by reading to a group of young patients.
Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center participates in Reach Out and Read, a program that prepares America’s youngest children to succeed in school by partnering with doctors to prescribe books and encourage families to read together.
Doctors, nurse practitioners, and other medical professionals incorporate Reach Out and Read’s evidence-based model into regular pediatric checkups, by advising parents about the importance of reading aloud and giving developmentally-appropriate books to children.
Through Reach Out and Read, each child starts kindergarten with a home library of up to 10 books and a parent who has heard at every health supervision visit about the importance of books and reading. The program begins with newborn babies and continues through age 5, with a special emphasis on children growing up in low-income communities.
The program has gained broad support on Beacon Hill.
“I’m pleased to have this opportunity to visit a MetroWest Reach Out and Read site to experience this terrific program first-hand,” said Senator Spilka. “We need to make sure we’re giving all kids the tools they need to learn and succeed in school. Engaging families in literacy programs is key for the future of kids and communities across the Commonwealth.”
Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center is one of 7 programs in Senator Spilka’s district that participate in Reach Out and Read, providing books to more than 5780 children annually.
Reach Out and Read reaches more than 188,829 infants, toddlers and preschoolers each year at 301 locations across the Commonwealth.
“As we all know, and confirmed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, reading definitely has an impact on a child’s growth and development,” comments Dr. Shah-Canning. “Reach Out and Read provides a great opportunity to hand a child /parent a book at our well child visits and discuss the importance of early and emergent literacy. It’s been incredibly satisfying to watch a child’s interest in reading flourish as they ask for books at their sick visits and one for their siblings too.”
Families served by Reach Out and Read read together more often, and their children enter kindergarten with larger vocabularies and stronger language skills, better prepared to achieve their potential.
“Research shows that if you intervene in the first five years of life and partner with parents, you can dramatically improve the early literacy skills of a child, putting them on the track for success in school and in life,” said Reach Out and Read Executive Director Brian Gallagher. “Childhood development experts tell us that the most important thing that parents can do to prepare their children to succeed in school is to read aloud to them every day. ”
The Reach Out and Read model is endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the program has one of the strongest records of research support of any primary care intervention.
Reach Out and Read doctors and nurses distribute over 6.5 million books to more than 4 million children and their families annually at 5,000 pediatric practices, hospitals, clinics and health centers in all 50 states.
More than 20,000 medical providers nationwide currently participate in Reach Out and Read.
For more information, visit www.reachoutandread.org.
Back row L-R: Dr. Deval Shah-Canning, Medical Director Kennedy CHC-Framingham, Clifford the Dog, Senator Karen Spilka, Toni McGuire, President and CEO, Kennedy CHC Front row: Children from Head Start in Framingham