Reach Out and Read Open Book, Open World

Reach Out and Read provides young children a foundation for success by incorporating books into pediatric care and encouraging families to read aloud together. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Reach Out and Read program started in 1996 and is implemented at 20 of CHOP’s Primary Care Centers in West, South and Northwest Philadelphia; the suburbs of Pennsylvania; and Burlington Township, New Jersey. The program is also at some of CHOP’s outpatient Neonatal and Cardiac Kids Developmental Follow-up Programs.


Reach Out and Read - Open Book, Open World

David Rosenberg: If we make the difference in one child’s life, if we just reach one child in this program, that we change the course of the world.

Perri Klass, MD: On some level, when you think about a child growing up in a home that has no books, that has no children’s books, it should hurt us a little bit the way that the idea of a child growing up in a home where there’s no food on the shelves, or where there’s no warmth in the winter, it shouldn’t be. A child should have a chance. There should be books in the home that will help the child’s mind grow and develop.

Steven Altschuler, MD: Improving our community, our surrounding community, is very important to us. It’s one of our major missions. And as you think about improving the community that we live in, I can’t think of a program that’s more important than the Reach Out and Read Program.

Trude Haecker, MD: So Reach Out and Read is a wonderful program that we have at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to provide books to children in the context of well-child care. It’s a three-part program that includes having literacy-rich waiting rooms so that we have books available for kids in the waiting room. We have the physicians and nurse practitioners in our practices talking about the importance of reading to young children, from 6 months to 5 years. And then each child is able to leave with a new book at each check-up that we have given them as part of their visit with us.

Steven Altschuler, MD: Typically you develop this bond of trust between the family and the clinician. Because of that, it becomes very appropriate, you know, for the clinician to be the one to introduce the issue of reading early and often to a child. You know, almost a 100% of the time the family really takes that to heart.

Perri Klass, MD: As a pediatric primary care provider, you see all of the families, you see them over and over again. And especially in those critical early years. I’ve got a chance to talk about language and development and use the book.

Trude Haecker, MD: I go in, show the book to the baby, and the baby’s eyes light up. The mother gets to see how excited the baby is about the book, I get to use that as a teachable moment to say, “Look at how smart your baby is, isn’t that amazing? He can see the pictures, he’s looking at them. He wants to start turning the pages.” So it becomes a very important tool for us as pediatricians to be able to imbue that in the context of the care that we give.

Kristen Kucharczuk, MD, PhD: We have over, you know, 13 peer reviewed articles at this point showing that if you get a book and literacy advice from your doctor, according to the Reach Out and Read model, you’re much more likely to be read to by your parents, and your vocabulary scores are significantly improved. About a six month vocabulary gain, which is huge in the life of a young child.

David Rosenberg: Literacy is a direct correlation to success. It doesn’t take a lot to really make a difference in a child’s life. A book, two books, you know, an effort of reading. I mean that is something that can make a critical difference with not a lot of investment.

Siobhan A. Reardon: If you can read, you can do anything. We here in libraries really want to make sure that a child has a book in their hand and is learning to read from almost the onset of life.

Kristen Kucharczuk, MD, PhD: When kids grow up with books in the home, and they love reading stories, and being read to, and seeing that as a positive, they know that books are about using their imaginations, and about seeing different worlds. And so when they make that transition into school age, they see not just the power of the book from, “Oh well I already know how to read cause my mom read to me and I know these letters” and so forth, but they see where the books can take them.

Perri Klass, MD: There are a number of studies that show us that the children who have better language skills, and who are more school ready at school entry, do much better in school, and do well later on in life.

Trude Haecker, MD: Tamara and Tiara, when they got in they were 28 weeks, premature infants. We gave them books from the first visit practically. They were probably the first one or two patients I gave books to when we started the program in ‘96. And as a result they came back and found me, they got both into special magnet high schools here in the city. And the first thing out of her mouth, the mother’s mouth, was, “Dr. Haecker, this is because you gave them books. And I read to them.”

Tamia: I grew up in South Philadelphia, no bookstores whatsoever, not even one. If it wasn’t for the hospital telling me that I should read, or Dr. Haecker that I should read, I probably wouldn’t have not been reading to them or exposing them to some of the books and things that they have been exposed to. So I think this really, really is a good program, really good.

Kristen Kucharczuk, MD, PhD: A lot of the parents involved in our programs, they weren’t read to, so they don’t have that sense of, “Well, what does it look like when you read to your child? How can I make my crazy, rambunctious 2-year-old, who is running all over the room, sit still for a story?” And this is where our volunteers are wonderful. They will sit down with the book in the middle of the waiting room. They’re like pied pipers, and the kids will flock over. And all of the sudden that parents sees their child who was, you know, before that racing around, not focused at all, really focused on something, engaged, answering questions. Our volunteers are very good at bringing out the best in kids. And they show parents that, “Hey, you can do this too.”

Trude Haecker, MD: We’re taking care of the whole child. So getting that message out so that the public understands that books are as important to children as the shots and the nutrition. You know that all goes together.

Kristen Kucharczuk, MD, PhD: Reach Out and Read depends on a lot of people. It really is a community program. We get a lot of support from private foundations, some corporate foundations, and then we have a lot of individual donors who are really committed to Reach Out and Read. People who have come in, seen our program in action, who’ve brought their families in, whose children have done book drives, who have really seen the impact that Reach Out and Read makes on these kids. And have become sort of part of our Reach Out and Read family here.

Perri Klass, MD: Something as inexpensive as a book, helping a family find the way to that comfort and that joy, and also that cognitive potential, I think really resonates with a lot of people.

Siobhan A. Reardon: Reach Out and Read is, to me, the most valuable reading program that we could offer our children here in Philadelphia. And it absolutely must be supported.

Steven Altschuler, MD: It’s a program that really permeates everything that we do at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. And again, I think that’s an indication of it’s importance to us as a leading pediatric provider.

David Rosenberg: When you think of Children’s Hospital, you think of, I think of at least, of a house of miracles. The #1 pediatric hospital in the country, and arguably the world. But there is an incredible amount of community service that the hospital does in the local community. And that was a way for me to connect my dollars with some place that I felt I could truly make a difference.

Kristen Kucharczuk, MD, PhD: Without the support of donors, we’re not going to be able to get this message into the lives of these families. Reach Out and Read reaches a ton of kids. We know that it works.

Tamia: I believe because of the reading and the push that I had from the hospital and the doctors, I think that really helped them along the way.

Tamara/Tiara: I would thank the donor who donated the books to me, because it helped us today.

Tamara/Tiara: Right now I have straight A’s and everything’s going fine.

David Rosenberg: If you volunteer in this program, if you’re involved with the children that benefit from this program, intuitively you will know that there’s great rewards as a result of this program.

Trude Haecker, MD: Since 1996 the Children’s Hospital has given out over a half million books to children. Those are books that children wouldn’t have otherwise.

Related Centers and Programs: Reach Out and Read