MONTGOMERY, AL (STL.News) Governor Kay Ivey on Thursday announced a new partnership for the Reach Out and Read program with the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education (ADECE), Alabama Medicaid Agency (AMA), and the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH).
These state agencies are providing funding to Reach Out and Read-Alabama to expand services to children living in Macon, Marshall, Monroe, Jefferson and Randolph counties. These are the five pilot counties for the governor’s Campaign for Grade-Level Reading that was initiated last July. Through the Reach Out and Read program, children in the pilot areas will receive their own brand-new books at each well-child visit, encouraging them to be seen by physicians on a regular basis.
Reach Out and Read integrates reading aloud into pediatric care, providing books and coaching that help families make reading a part of their daily routine. Clinicians may introduce this important evidence-based model into regular pediatric checkups by advising parents about the importance of reading aloud and providing the developmentally appropriate books for every child during well-child visits.
Reach Out and Read-Alabama is a program of the Alabama Chapter-American Academy of Pediatrics. Reach Out and Read has provided more than 1.6 million new books to vulnerable children in Alabama through over 300 prescribing medical providers in 53 practices and clinics.
“Since my call to action to launch the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading one year ago, we have made great progress. Under the Reach Out and Read program, the pilot counties have developed and began implementing comprehensive literacy strategies from which the rest of the state can learn,” Governor Ivey said. “Alabamians should be proud that state agencies are working together to improve literacy by exposing children to books early on through the Reach Out and Read program, as well as improving their health and well-being.”
The Reach Out and Read program begins at birth and continues through age four, with a special emphasis on children growing up in communities where families earn lower incomes. Families served by the program will read together more often, and their children will enter school with larger vocabularies and stronger language skills, better prepared to achieve their potential.
“The ADECE is excited to join forces with the Alabama Medicaid Agency and CHIP to include Reach Out and Read in the five pilot counties for the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading,” ADECE Secretary Barbara Cooper said. “This will be a great resource for improving language and literacy that we hope to spread throughout the state in the years to come. I hope that families will use the books they receive to continue reading to their children and instill within them a lifetime joy of reading.”
“We are excited about the opportunities that the Reach Out and Read program provides for the children and their families,” said Medicaid Commissioner Stephanie Azar. “Medicaid fully supports this initiative which incorporates the development of language and skills that will positively impact children for their lifetime. This initiative not only helps with improving literacy but also will lead to children being more likely to attend well-child checkups, resulting in more children receiving vaccinations on schedule.”
State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris echoes other state leaders in their support of Reach Out and Read. He said, “Participating families in these pilot counties will continue to reap the many lifelong benefits of this evidence-based program during a crucial period of development for their children. When parents and caregivers are provided the resources to read age-appropriate books aloud to young children and engage with them, a foundation is built for good health and success in life. We are pleased that the Children’s Health Insurance Program can contribute to this important initiative.”
Providers are trained to incorporate giving an age-appropriate, culturally-sensitive, new book to the child during the exam that will be used as a tool for assessment and guidance. By reading the book aloud to the child, the provider helps the parent understand the importance of language and development skills and gives a prescription for reading aloud. Through this collaboration, children ages 0-4 will receive two books per year during well-child visits. The providers will receive the appropriate training to engage the families along with the books to distribute to the children. About 24,000 children and their families will benefit from the Reach Out and Read program.