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June 23, 2022

Reach Out and Read: A Foundation for Success

Pierrette Kelly, Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading

Reach Out and Read® gives young children a foundation for success by incorporating books and reading into their pediatric care and encouraging families to read aloud together. Research shows parents are their child’s first teacher, and when pediatricians “prescribe a book,” it encourages caregivers to engage in building their baby’s brains from the outset.

At more than ten routine health checkups from infancy through five years, Reach Out and Read® trained providers:

  • talk with parents about how important it is to read aloud and engage with their young children
  • demonstrate how best to look at books and talk about the stories with their infants, toddlers, and preschoolers
  • encourage parents to cuddle up and read together at home and build routines around books
  • give a new book to the child to take home and keep

At the end of the program, every child has a home library, each given with the acknowledgment to parents that they are their child’s first and most important teacher.

The Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (SCGLR) began its Reach Out and Read® (ROR) journey on April 20, 2017. To date, there are 15 Clinics in Desoto, Manatee, and Sarasota counties.

Over the last five years, SCGLR has connected 54 pediatric health providers with ROR training and community organizations to help regional providers strengthen the families they serve. Many clinics have experienced unusually high staff turnover during the pandemic. The Engagement Team continues to connect, listen, and share with providers and staff to support the families they serve.

SCGLR has ordered, processed, and shared 71,212 age-appropriate books for children and parents ages birth through five, building baby brain cells, bonding with families, and preparing children to succeed in school and life.

While The Patterson Foundation is the primary ROAR funder, additional support comes from donors at the Manatee Community Foundation and the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. Thanks to donors, SCGLR has invested $151,882.53 in buying books that our providers share at the beginning of every well-child visit (the average cost per book is $2.13). When parents and professionals are supported by the community, possibilities percolate for children, and every child is everyone’s child.

Nine thousand four hundred and forty-four parents (9,440) have connected with SCGLR by returning ROR postcards and requesting additional books and information.

Since January 2022, the Suncoast Campaign has received an average of 110 ROR postcards per month, slightly below our standard of 127 postcards. We anticipate this number will improve as more children are expected to receive back-to-school well-checks this year and return to the classroom healthy and vaccinated.

The SCGLR ROR Team continues to strengthen regional efforts by transforming medical clinics into learning-rich environments that inspire children and families to read together by promoting books and training to pediatric providers on early brain development and school readiness from birth.

The campaign continues to connect with ROR-trained medical providers so they can strengthen parents to help them evolve and succeed as essential partners in assuring the healthy development and early school success of their children. We ensure providers have the connections, information, support, and tools they need to encourage and inspire parents as their child’s first and best teacher on their journey toward sustainable self-sufficiency.

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