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I happened upon an article earlier this week about a literacy-promotion scheme which I’d never heard of before.

It’s called Reach Out and Read, and its mission is to make literacy promotion a standard part of paediatric primary care, by training doctors and nurses to advise parents about the importance of reading aloud, and giving books to children aged 6 months to 5 years when they attend paediatric checkups. The program was developed in the US (Boston, to be precise) in 1989 by paediatricians and early childhood educators, and it’s currently running in the US, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands. To date, more than 50,000 doctors and nurses, working in a total of 4,535 hospitals and health centres, have been trained in strategies for early literacy guidance.

In the waiting room, displays, information, and books create a literacy-rich environment; and,

where possible, volunteer readers entertain the children, modelling for the parents the pleasures – and techniques – of reading aloud. About 6 million books are distributed to families via the scheme every year.

I know that the BookStart scheme here in the UK does something similar – they distribute packs of free books to every baby – but Reach Out and Read goes one step further: it encourages paediatricians to  “prescribe” reading time to promote literacy and to keep their patients on track developmentally. I think it’s really cool.