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March 15, 2017

Reach Out and Read, A Powerful Messenger

Managing the hundreds of messages you are bombarded with is no simple task—even on an easy day. What can you discard? What can’t you afford to ignore?

If you are a parent or can imagine being one, you know that messages about how to raise children come fast and furious from so many sources.

Many parents work multiple jobs, juggle appointments with unreliable transportation, and stretch every dollar to make sure there will be food on the table until the next paycheck comes. With it all, they still make quality time for their children.

But finding the trust, the time, and the tools to know what messages to listen to and how to follow through can be especially challenging.

More than 90 percent of children under the age of six attend routine pediatric visits at least once a year. This is precious time—one on one time with the doctor, a trusted messenger. What if this visit was combined with a discussion about healthy brain development, a book to take home, and a prescription to read aloud with your child?

This is Reach Out and Read.

According to Dr. Dipesh Navsaria, who recently visited Manatee and Sarasota counties to talk about the program, the approach has been around for 30 years. With his dedicated advocacy and outreach, along with the work of other pediatricians, the national program is expanding and reaching 4.7 million children every year.  The Elephant in the Clinic explains, how much the Reach and Read program has to offer children, families, clinicians and society when well implemented.

Thanks to the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, Manatee Community Foundation, Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, and United Way of Manatee County, this national program will be seeded for three years in our two-county area to help parents ensure a good start for their kids.

Local pediatricians who are trained and already engaged in the Reach Out and Reach program love it. Using the book as a tool, handed directly to the child, the physician can quickly assess the child’s developmental progress and work with the parents to model the best ways to look at books to build the young brain.

Reach Out and Read is not just a feel-good program; it’s an effective program. Results have shown that participating parents are two and a half times more likely to read to their children and twice as likely to read to their children more than three times per week. Participating children’s language development has been shown to improve by three to six months.

American Academy of Pediatrics evidence of Reach Out and Read’s success

A group of community investors in Manatee County were inspired by the words of Dr. Navsaria during his visit to Manatee Community Foundation in February. His first-hand experience as a pediatrician (and a children’s librarian, public health professional, child health advocate, and father) lit a spark of excitement for people who know that if we want our children to succeed, we need to start early.

All of the frustrating catch-up games we play when children enter kindergarten behind can be prevented when we invest in programs like Reach Out and Read. Pediatricians are powerful messengers. Let’s help them make an even bigger difference.

If you want to learn more about how you can get involved please phone us at 1 (941) 747-7765

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