Information Sheet: Reach Out and Read


As the Reach Out and Read West Michigan Affiliate, Ready for School is leading a new healthcare collaborative to increase early literacy skills by modeling and prescribing reading with young children.

Reach Out and Read is a national program to support pediatric clinicians in their efforts to provide families with the tools they need to make reading and storytelling part of their daily routines.

Reach Out and Read contributes to creating the environment our children need to thrive. As adults we prioritize safety for all children. Every day adults take precaution and safety measures for kids. If you're a parent you know the script well: taking hold of small hands when crossing the street; buckling into car seats; healthy eating; brushing teeth; and bedtime are routines meant to protect and prevent damage.

Linking early literacy and health through reading and storytelling, every day, is no different.


Reach Out and Read promotes literacy as part of the pediatric primary care visit. The program trains medical providers to provide children with a new, developmentally-appropriate book at each well-child visit 0-5y.

During each well visit at participating Reach Out and Read sites, pediatricians and nurse practitioners encourage parents to read aloud to their children, offer age-appropriate tips, modeling, and give the young children a brand-new, age-appropriate book.


• Of the approximate 44,000 children 0-5y old in Kent County, only 7,000 are currently served by Reach Out and Read across 12 clinical sites (16%). Meanwhile, early literacy challenges in West Michigan are begging for evidence based interventions that increase levels of positive, language-rich parent-child interactions from the beginning.

SOURCE: Talent 2025 West Michigan Early Literacy Strategy: Pre-Kindergarten, September 2017.

• 90% of a child’s brain has already developed by age five (when entering kindergarten), we know early intervention is key. However, our current early literacy system doesn’t engage children and families early enough. Research shows only 34% of parents report reading aloud to their children for more than 15 minutes per day.

SOURCE: Though many brain patterning processes are complete at birth, the human brain exhibits further dramatic biological development during the preschool years, and roughly quadruples in weight before the age of six (Dobbing and Sands, 1973), when it has acquired approximately 90% of its adult volume (Courchesne et al., 2000; Iwasaki et al., 1997; Kennedy et al., 2002; Kennedy and Dehay, 2001; Lenroot and Giedd, 2006; Paus et al., 2001; Reiss et al., 1996).

• “The highest rate of return in early childhood development comes from investing as early as possible, from birth through age five, in disadvantaged families. Starting at age three or four is too little too late, as it fails to recognize that skills beget skills in a complementary and dynamic way. Efforts should focus on the first years for the greatest efficiency and effectiveness. The best investment is in quality early childhood development from birth to five for disadvantaged children and their families.” —James J. Heckman, December 7, 2012.

SOURCE: Invest in Early Childhood Development: Reduce Deficits, Strengthen the Economy

• Reach Out and Read is focused on serving children growing up in low-income communities.

“Growing up in poverty is one of the greatest threats to healthy child development. Poverty and financial stress can impede children’s cognitive development and their ability to learn.”

SOURCE: Annie E. Casey 2017 KidsCount Data Book: State Trends in Child Well-Being

• “A major contribution of family literacy to young children’s future success is the act of talking with infants and toddlers....the richness of interaction in the home has a strong influence on early language development and acquisition of literacy that lasts throughout the school years.”

SOURCE: Rosenkoetter, S. Knapp-Philo, J. Learning to Read the World, Language and Literacy in the First Three Years, (2006), Zero to Three


• Reach Out and Read’s effectiveness is consistently supported by independent, peer-reviewed research. Studies show that the model has a significant effect on parental behavior and attitudes toward reading aloud, and that children who participate in our program demonstrate higher language scores.

• Impact is documented in ethnically and economically diverse families throughout the nation.

• Families participating in Reach Out and Read read more frequently to their children.

• Children exposed to Reach Out and Read have higher receptive language scores (words the child understands) and expressive language scores (words the child says).

• Increased exposure to Reach Out and Read leads to larger increases in language scores.

• Reading together furthers language acquisition, promotes brain development, and provides an opportunity for families to build powerful, lasting bonds.

• English-speaking and non-English-speaking families who participate in Reach Out and Read increase their weekly bedtime readings.


As the Reach Out and Read West Michigan Affiliate, Ready for School will lead expansion efforts in Kent County through: provider recruitment and training; ongoing quality improvement; and evaluation and tracking with a special consideration for underserved populations and geographies. Expansion is made possible by funding from the Ready by Five Early Childhood Millage.


Kindergarten Readiness is a community issue. Ready for School is a community investment in solutions to carry children, families and our community forward by improving access to high-quality early learning experiences that accelerate the early literacy and social-emotional skills that equate to kindergarten readiness and sustained school success: aligning preK and K-12 systems.

For more information, contact Kate Flynn, Chief Development Officer,

Ready for School at 517.930.6060 or

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