Nonprofit aims to improve childhood literacy in underserved populations

Sep. 8—Reach Out and Read is a nonprofit organization that provides children in low-income families with books from birth to age 5. The program primarily operates in pediatric offices, allowing doctors to give out books during check-ups and encourage parents to read to their children.

One of the program's supporters, Dr. Susan Goldberg, is an associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Augusta University. Goldberg, who works for the University's training program on the Aiken Regional Medical Center Campus, gives away books during child well-visits.

"The amount of time that families spend reading together in early childhood has a really significant impact on language development," she said.

Since 1989, ROR has targeted underserved populations and communities that according to Goldberg, "may not have the resources to have extra books in the home."

Those in the pediatric world have "a really unique kind of opportunity" to counsel families, educate on the importance of early language development and help to create healthy habits, she said.

Reading to and with children is important even for newborn babies. According to the ROR website, 80 percent of a child's brain is formed between birth and age 3.

"Language and verbal development is much better in kids that are read to early," said Goldberg.

The program's goal of improving early literacy seems to be proving successful.

A six-year study on the effects of the Reach Out and Read program has shown that parents and caregivers exposed to the program are 27 percent more likely to read to their child every day, compared to parents who have not been exposed. These parents also are more likely to read to their child in an engaging way, for at least 30 minutes daily.

Goldberg said that babies' stress levels tend to be lessened if "they've had very positive, close, nurturing relationships with a caregiver. It's not just the language and reading assistance that it [ROR] gives, but it's also the relationships that are built."

For more information, visit