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May 14, 2019

Early Learning Yields Significant Return on Investment: Investing Time, Talent or Treasure, You Can Make an Amazing Difference

The Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (SCGLR) is part of a national movement to ensure that children learn to read from birth to age five. We work through community partnerships with our partners, diverse organizations, donors, and volunteers on five key solution areas proven to have the most significant impact on a child’s success:

One of my favorite initiatives is Reach Out and Read,  a model early literacy program providing comprehensive early health screenings for children from birth to five years. Designed 30 years ago by pediatricians and early-learning specialists, this evidenced-based award-winning program is focused on three key solution areas: Health, Parent Engagement, and School Readiness.

The evidence is clear the first few years of life sets the stage for the rest of a child’s life; it is indisputable. More than 95 percent of a child’s brain is formed during this critical period. Professor James Heckman’s latest research, “The Lifecycle Benefits of an Influential Early Childhood Program,” shows that high-quality birth-to-five programs for disadvantaged children can deliver a 13% per year return on investment—a rate substantially higher than the 7-10% return previously established for preschool programs serving 3- to 4-year-olds.

Reach Out and Read programs begin early in life and positively impact:

  • Children’s Health
  • Family Engagement
  • Early Learning — during those critical years when children participate in more than ten routine annual health checkups from birth to age five

Reach Out and Read trains health care providers to:

  • Talk with parents about reading with their children every day.
  • Demonstrate how to look at books together and engage their children in serve and return conversations.
  • Encourage parents and children to cuddle up and read together at home, sharing bedtime stories and building a lifetime of memories.
  • Give each child a new book during every well-visit and encourage parents to visit local libraries for more books.

Doctor and patient relationships are built on trust. Today we have thirty-three trusted Reach Out and Read trained health care providers in eleven clinics working with our most vulnerable ALICE  (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed ) families. These families often struggle, working from paycheck to paycheck with little or no savings, often one emergency away from poverty or homelessness.  Despite the uncertainty in their lives, these families have trust in their child’s doctor.

Nationally more than 90% of children from birth to age five participate in health screenings once a year. Thanks to The Patterson Foundation, Manatee Community Foundation, and the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, more than 17,000 children and their families will participate in SCGLR’s Reach Out and Read program this year. Our trusted providers will give every child a book and help parents develop their confidence and find the support they need to be their child’s first and best teacher.

The Data:

Reach Out and Read Outcomes —Survey Data 2017 and 2018
Manatee County and Sarasota County Combined:


In Manatee County


In Sarasota County

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