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Reach out and read

Photo courtesy Reach Out and Read Washington

Reach Out and Read Northwest gets boost for baby program

Local pediatric clinics help spread the word

Reach Out and Read Northwest has received $25,000 to expand the evidence-backed Building Connections Begins at Birth program. The program emphasizes the importance of parents and caregivers introducing talking, reading, and singing to babies right from birth.

Why is reading from birth important to babies? A growing body of evidence indicates that routinely spending time together and reading aloud from the moment a baby is born can have a lasting positive impact on a child’s language acquisition and early literacy. Regular reading can boost a baby’s and growing child’s emotional connectedness and healthy social-emotional development. 

Building Connections Begins at Birth introduces the concepts of early relational health to parents, starting at their newborn medical visit and continuing through to the baby’s 5-month check-up and beyond.

Lessons gained at well-child visits

During well-child visits, medical providers affiliated with Reach Out and Read talk with parents about the benefits of reading aloud to their young children. Clinicians are trained to show parents how to hold books so their kids are engaged and how to interact with the text and images to help them follow along. Parents also learn from medical providers the importance of talking about stories with infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.

“This new funding serves as a commitment to the clinics and families in Washington and Oregon as we work collectively to increase the ’dose’ of our impactful program,” said Reach Out and Read Northwest Regional Executive Director Jessica Mortensen in a release this week. “Starting at birth means children get Reach Out and Read at four extra well-child visits, including four more books. Beginning with newborns offers our foundational support from day one.”

333,000 books to families 

Reach Out and Read Northwest clinics cover Washington and Oregon. In 2023, the organization served nearly 200,000 children at more than 395,000 well-child visits in the two states and distributed more than 333,000 books to families.

“As a pediatrician, I have seen firsthand how Reach Out and Read can help children and families starting at birth,” said Reach Out and Read National Medical Director Dr. Perri Klass. “I hope that every interaction comes across as an expression of my belief in the child’s potential and the parent’s love — and that every book carried out of the exam room helps families build loving interactions, routines, and memories.”

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About the Author

Cheryl Murfin

Cheryl Murfin is managing editor at Seattle's Child. She is also a certified doula, lactation educator for NestingInstinctsSeattle.com and a certified AWA writing workshop facilitator at Compasswriters.com.