“Will I get a book today?”
That’s a question often heard by pediatricians in bustling clinics throughout Greater Waterbury as they greet young children for their checkups.
Much to the delight of children, the answer is nearly always “YES!” thanks in part to Connecticut Community Foundation’s grant to Reach Out and Read, which gave 2,300 books to more than 1,150 children in Greater Waterbury through their medical providers in 2016. The brand-new, high-quality books are often classics, such as How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?
Since many families served by Reach Out and Read can’t get to a library or afford books, often books received from their medical providers are the only ones children have.
“The research is clear,” says Christine Garber, director of development for Reach Out and Read of Connecticut and Massachusetts, “that, on average, the language skills of children from low-income families are 12-14 months behind by the time they get to kindergarten.”
Reach Out and Read aims to change that through a proven approach that taps into the trusted relationship among children, parents and their medical providers and reinforces the idea that reading aloud to young children 15-20 minutes per day is the best way to foster early literacy skills.
They train medical providers in the region who treat under-insured families and provide books for them to give to children while educating parents on the importance of reading aloud daily to their children.
“This is an invaluable ‘win-win’ opportunity to encourage the family to read to their child, to discuss a child’s development and to create a home library for the child as he or she grows,” said Dr. Linda Matthew of Alliance Medical Group in Waterbury.
Angela Barrows, a physician’s assistant at St. Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury, concludes, “When hardly a day goes by without a child asking for a book, you know you have reached some level of success.”
Yes, they have.
Photo courtesy of Reach Out and Read, Connecticut and Massachusetts