Reach Out and Read

Reach Out and Read (ROR) is a national pediatric literacy program that promotes early literacy and school readiness in over 4900 clinics nationwide. The program builds on the unique relationship between parents and medical providers to develop critical early reading skills in children beginning at 6 months of age. ROR prepares young children to succeed in school by partnering with doctors who prescribe books and encourage families to read together. Over 4 million children are served annually in the country.

There are 221 sites in Florida, including 17 in the Tampa Bay Area. USF Pediatrics runs the Reach Out and Read program at the USF 17 Davis Clinic, USF STC Clinic and the Healthpark clinic. There is also a program at the All Children's Hospital pediatric clinic. The goal of the program is to integrate parent education about literacy development into regular pediatric care for young children, taking advantage of regularly scheduled well-child visits to reach parents of young children. At every health supervision visit, children from 6 months to 5 years of age receive a new book along with advice from their provider. Through the guidance from pediatricians and nurse practitioners, parents learn ways to support their children's early literacy development. Reading aloud is "prescribed" to parents as part of their child's daily routine to make literacy promotion a standard part of pediatric primary care. The goal is for children to grow up with books and a love of reading.

In our clinic waiting rooms, community volunteers - many of whom are USF students - engage the children with books and reading, looking and labeling, reading aloud, listening to the children read, and modeling book-related interactions for parents. Used books are available in the waiting and examining room for children to peruse while waiting to see the doctor. Later on, in the examining room, the pediatric care provider introduces an age-appropriate children's book into the visit, commenting on the child's response and offering information on the child's development. At each well-child checkup, the child is given a new book to take home. These books have been carefully chosen and are developmentally and culturally appropriate for the child.

Handouts and brochures with tips on reading are also made available to the families. For many parents, seeing the doctor give the child a book and seeing books and reading throughout the clinic communicates the importance of reading more effectively than any amount of explanation. Further, the accumulation of these books in the home, all carrying the health provider's recommendation, offers parents an opportunity to help their children develop and grow, and offers children a pleasurable and positive way to elicit parental attention.

Dr. Sharon Dabrow, Professor of Pediatrics, is the USF ROR Medical Director. Dr. Jennifer Takagishi is the Healthpark ROR Director. They can be contacted at sdabrow@health.usf.edu; jtakagis@health.usf.edu. Ms. Ellen Kent is the volunteer coordinator and can be contacted at ekent@health.usf.edu. For more information, visit the ROR website at www.reachoutandread.org.