To the Editor:
Education Week reports that the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued a policy report pushing for greater early-childhood-education advocacy by its members (Pediatricians Urged to Get Involved With Early-Childhood Education). Both Education Week and the policy report itself note that cost is a significant problem.
There’s one program with consistently positive effects that costs relatively little: Reach Out and Read. The core of the program is reading aloud to children in doctors’ offices. There is overwhelming evidence showing that read-alouds are beneficial: Children who are read to regularly consistently do better on tests of vocabulary, grammar, and listening comprehension, and read-alouds do an excellent job of stimulating interest in books.
Reach Out and Read makes books available and informs parents of the value and pleasure of reading aloud. The intervention is modest: While in waiting rooms for well-child pediatrician’s appointments, medical staff members show parents reading activities they can do with their children. Staff members and the physician also discuss the importance of reading. The families receive free books at each doctor visit. Reach Out and Read is aimed at lower-income groups that have little access to books and thus typically score considerably lower than average on vocabulary tests. Studies show that children participating in these programs make excellent gains in vocabulary.
In one three-year study, subjects had an average of only three well-child appointments in which their doctors discussed books, and they received an average of four books. Nevertheless, the children did far better than comparison children on vocabulary tests, scoring closer to middle-class norms.
Professor Emeritus of Education
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, Calif.
A version of this article appeared in the September 06, 2017 edition of Education Week as Reading Program Reaps Rewards