A new partnership between Alabama’s Early Intervention System (AEIS) and Reach Out and Read Alabama is encouraging early learning through reading by offering books to children when visiting their pediatrician.
The program – Rx for Summer Reading – works by identifying pediatric offices in Alabama’s counties of need. In turn, these doctor offices “prescribe” and distribute books to families to engage in reading and conversation with their children.
“AEIS is helping Reach Out and Read Alabama distribute an additional 2,000 books this summer,” said Jeri Jackson, AEIS rehabilitation specialist. “We’ve always been focused on early childhood development, and this program aims to change the trajectory of children’s lives through early language development, one book at a time.”
Since 2006, Alabama’s pediatric health care providers have prescribed more than 1.7 million new books to the state’s youngest and most underserved children through Reach Out and Read Alabama. The prescribed book – “Sometimes I Feel Sunny” by Gillian Shields – comes complete with a written doctor’s referral encouraging children to participate in their local library’s summer reading program.
“The book was specifically chosen because of the positive social-emotional message it shares with little ones,” Jackson said. “Each book contains a bookplate with information to help families identify early developmental milestones and also to contact us for various services and supports.”
The Rx for Summer Reading program kicked off at a special event held at Pediatric Adolescent Medicine in Selma in mid-June. The initiative will continue at pediatric offices throughout Alabama through the end of August.
Reach Out and Read is the only early literacy national nonprofit organization that focuses on early literacy. It was founded in 1989, with its first program at Boston City Hospital (now Boston Medical Center). By 2001, the Reach Out and Read model had grown to include all 50 states. Today, the program distributes 6.9 million books annually to combat the effects of income inequality.
Jackson said that pediatricians who have previously participated in Reach Out and Read have indicated an increase of nearly six months in the reading readiness of children.
“We’re excited to be involved in with Reach Out and Read Alabama,” said Jackson. “A six-month increase in reading readiness is huge, and especially for children with special needs, that is an awesome statistic.”