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Reach Out and Read makes literacy promotion a standard part of pediatric primary care, so that children grow up with books and a love of reading.
Reach Out and Read trains doctors and nurses to advise parents about the importance of reading aloud and to give books to children at pediatric checkups from 6 months to 5 years of age, with a special focus on children growing up in poverty. By building on the unique relationship between parents and medical providers, Reach Out and Read helps families and communities encourage early literacy skills so children enter school prepared for success in reading.
Since 1981, Morris Heights Health Center (MHHC) has been a leading provider of primary healthcare to Morris Heights and the surrounding areas. With a mission to be the vanguard for high-quality, affordable, and accessible healthcare for all, MHHC serves more than 48,000 patients annually, 76% of whom live at, or under, the poverty level. As the need for literacy services in low-income communities remains enormous, literacy promotion has become an important step in the goals of Morris Heights Health Center as a community development leader. We strive to create a healthy community in which children grow up with books and a love of reading.
In 2004, MHHC launched its first pediatric literacy program by joining Reach Out and Read, a national effort to make literacy promotion a standard part of pediatric primary care. At all check-ups from the ages of six months to five years, our medical providers educate parents about the importance of reading aloud to their children, and give their patients developmentally-appropriate books to take home and keep. By guiding and encouraging parents to read aloud to their children, we reinforce the parent's role as the child's first and most important teacher. In addition, we give low-income families the critical tool that many lack and cannot afford--children's books.
In addition to promoting early childhood literacy in the exam room, our Reach Out and Read program also seeks to transform our pediatric waiting room into a literacy-rich space. New and gently-used books, as well as family literacy resources from community organizations, are available for patients to read while they wait for appointments. In addition, student and staff volunteers host a daily "Children's Story Time", showing parents and children the pleasures and techniques of looking at books together.
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