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Reach Out and Read: UT Peds promote importance of early literacy

Research shows that the more words children hear directed at them by parents and caregivers, the more they learn. In addition, researchers have found that by age four, children in poverty hear 30 million fewer words than their higher-income peers. These dramatic gaps result in significant learning disadvantages that persist into adulthood. Numerous studies have shown that when pediatricians advise parents to read together and provide the necessary tools, parents read more and come to cherish this child-centered time, and their children enter kindergarten with larger vocabularies and stronger language skills.

Reach Out and Read, mentioned recently in the New York Times, is a national initiative that aims to prepare America’s youngest children for success in school by partnering with doctors to encourage families to read together. The grant-funded program is locally coordinated and supported by The University of Toledo Department of Pediatrics.

Dr. Mary Beth Wroblewski reads to a child.

Dr. Mary Beth Wroblewski reads to a child.

During the fourth annual Clinton Global Initiative America meeting, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced a new collaboration between Too Small to Fail, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), Scholastic Inc. and Reach Out and Read to raise awareness of the importance of early language development. The AAP is now promoting early literacy as an essential component of primary care visits. The partnership will ensure that doctors, parents and caregivers have the information and tools they need to promote reading children every day, starting in infancy. The effort takes a multi-pronged approach toward equipping parents with the best tools to ensure that their children are prepared to learn as they enter school.

“For 25 years, Reach Out and Read’s doctors and nurses have been incorporating literacy messaging into pediatric primary care nationwide by prescribing books to children at well-child checkups. We look forward to building on our model with these partners so that all children have the chance to start life with a strong language foundation to help them achieve future successes,” said Steven Dow, co-chair of the Board at Reach Out and Read.

“We have had families who have told us that the book they received at the doctor’s office is the first new book for their child,” said Lori LeGendre, program director for Reach Out and Read of Northwest Ohio. “By visiting their doctor for every well-child visit starting at six months, a family can build a library of 10 books to be loved and enjoyed over and over before their children start school.”

Reach Out and Read of Northwest Ohio takes place at 20 local medical offices, handing out more than 24,000 new books and doses of literacy advice each year. The local initiative is also looking to partner with local programs or additional doctors offices to promote awareness of the importance of early literacy to families in the community. Donations of new or gently used books are appreciated.

LeGendre also works with Reach Out and Read Ohio, providing program support for more than 135 sites across the state.

“Reach Out and Read is a three way win – children get books to call their own, parents get practical advice on how and why to use the books at home and doctors start each well care visit on a positive note with a beautiful book to present to the family and help to evaluate each child’s development,” LeGendre said.

Nationwide, Reach Out and Read’s 20,000 medical providers serve four million children and their families annually at 5,000 pediatric practices, health centers and hospitals with a focus on those that serve low-income communities.

For more information visit or contact LeGendre at or 419.383.4007.

is UT's Media Relations Specialist. Contact her at 419.530.2077 or
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