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Reach Out and Read

Health Factors: Education
Decision Makers: Local Government State Government Federal Government Grantmakers Healthcare Professionals & Advocates Nonprofit Leaders
Evidence Rating: Scientifically Supported
Population Reach: 1-9% of WI's population
Impact on Disparities: Likely to decrease disparities

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The Reach Out and Read program partners with doctors, nurse practitioners, and other medical professionals to incorporate literacy support into regular well-child visits. From the 6-month checkup through age five, medical providers give children developmentally appropriate books and give parents guidance and encouragement on reading with their children. The program focuses on children in low income communities (ROR).

Expected Beneficial Outcomes

Increased time spent reading
Improved language skills

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is strong evidence that Reach Out and Read (ROR) increases the frequency with which participating low income and minority parents read to their children (Needlman 2004Needlman 2005, Yeager Pelatti 2014). Effects have been demonstrated for black and Latino parents (Mendelsohn 2001), parents who speak English as a second language (Golova 1999Silverstein 2002), and parents with less than a high school education (Golova 1999, Needlman 2005).

Young children of low income or Latino immigrant parents who participate in ROR appear to understand more words than their peers (Needlman 2004). ROR participation may also improve spoken vocabulary (Mendelsohn 2001) and early literacy skills (Dienar 2012) for some children in Spanish-speaking families. ROR can lead parents to keep more books in their homes (Needlman 2004). A Toronto-based study of participating children with adolescent parents suggests that ROR is associated with increased time spent reading and reading enjoyment, and reduced maternal depression (Kumar 2016). Ongoing ROR visits may lead to stronger program effects (Mendelsohn 2001, Theriot 2003Dienar 2012).

A Michigan-based study suggests that giving ROR program presentations to all physicians and residents, posting reading tips in exam rooms, and creating workflow plans for book distribution can increase both physician counseling and book distribution rates (Thakur 2016). Researchers suggest that careful book selection can support positive messages with children (e.g., books with depictions of nutritious food) (England 2015), and positive parenting content (e.g., children’s books addressing behavioral issues) (Bauer 2012).


United States

Reach Out and Read Programs are active in all 50 states, Washington DC, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, and many US military bases overseas (ROR). In total, over 5,000 ROR program sites serve an estimated 4.2 million children annually, distributing over 6 million books a year. As of 2015, 14 states invest state and federal funds in support of local ROR programs (NCSL-Goodwin 2015).


As of 2016, Reach out and Read Wisconsin supports 160 ROR programs across the state, with 50 clinics in training (CHAWI-ROR).

Implementation Resources

ROR - Reach Out & Read (ROR). Where great stories begin. Accessed on June 14, 2016

Citations - Description

ROR - Reach Out & Read (ROR). Where great stories begin. Accessed on June 14, 2016

Citations - Evidence

Bauer 2012* - Bauer NS, Hus AM, Sullivan PD, et al. A pilot study using children’s books to understand caregiver perceptions of parenting practices. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics. 2012;33(5):423–430. Accessed on June 14, 2016
Dienar 2012 - Diener ML, Hobson-Rohrer W, Byington CL. Kindergarten readiness and performance of Latino children participating in Reach out and Read. Journal of Community Medicine & Health Education. 2012;2(3):133. Accessed on June 14, 2016
England 2015* - England JL, Linchey J, Madsen KA, Patel AI. Reach out and eat: Food and beverages depicted in books for preschoolers. Clinical Pediatrics. 2015;54(13):1257–1264. Accessed on June 14, 2016
Golova 1999* - Golova N, Alario AJ, Vivier PM, Rodriguez M, High PC. Literacy promotion for Hispanic families in a primary care setting: A randomized, controlled trial. Pediatrics. 1999;103(5):993-7. Accessed on June 14, 2016
Kumar 2016* - Kumar MM, Cowan HR, Erdman L, Kaufman M, Hick KM. Reach Out and Read is feasible and effective for adolescent mothers: A pilot study. Maternal and Child Health Journal. 2016;20(3):630–638. Accessed on June 14, 2016
Mendelsohn 2001* - Mendelsohn AL, Mogilner LN, Dreyer BP, et al. The impact of a clinic-based literacy intervention on language development in inner- city preschool children. Pediatrics. 2001;107(1):130-4. Accessed on June 14, 2016
Needlman 2004* - Needlman R, Silverstein M. Pediatric interventions to support reading aloud: How good is the evidence? Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics. 2004;25(5):352–63. Accessed on June 14, 2016
Needlman 2005 - Needlman R, Toker KH, Dreyer BP, Klass P, Mendelsohn AL. Effectiveness of a primary care intervention to support reading aloud: A multicenter evaluation. Ambulatory Pediatrics. 2005;5(4):209-15. Accessed on June 14, 2016
ROR - Reach Out & Read (ROR). Where great stories begin. Accessed on June 14, 2016
Silverstein 2002 - Silverstein M, Iverson L, Lozano P. An english-language clinic-based literacy program is effective for a multilingual population. Pediatrics. 2002;109(5):e76. Accessed on June 14, 2016
Thakur 2016 - Thakur K, Sudhanthar S, Sigal Y, Mattarella N. Improving early childhood literacy and school readiness through Reach Out and Read (ROR) program. BMJ Quality Improvement Reports. 2016;5(1):u209772–w4137. Accessed on June 14, 2016
Theriot 2003* - Theriot JA, Franco SM, Sisson BA, et al. The impact of early literacy guidance on language skills of 3-year-olds. Clinical Pediatrics. 2003;42(2):165-72. Accessed on June 14, 2016
Yeager Pelatti 2014* - Yeager Pelatti C, Pentimonti JM, Justice LM. Methodological review of the quality of Reach Out and Read: Does it “work”? Clinical Pediatrics. 2014;53(4):343–350. Accessed on June 14, 2016

Citations - Implementation

CHAWI-ROR - Children’s Health Alliance of Wisconsin (CHAWI). Early literacy: Reach Out and Read Wisconsin. Accessed on June 14, 2016
NCSL-Goodwin 2015 - Goodwin K, Poppe J, Lipkowitz R. Trends: Three ways to a healthy start. National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) State Legislatures Magazine. 2015. Accessed on June 14, 2016
ROR - Reach Out & Read (ROR). Where great stories begin. Accessed on June 14, 2016

Page Last Updated

June 14, 2016

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