Oct 15, 2009


Reach Out and Read (ROR) is an evidence-based literacy-promotion service that is based in pediatric primary care offices. At the time of children’s checkups, pediatricians provide guidance and encouragement to parents to read to their children, program volunteers model shared book reading for parents, and children are given a new, age-appropriate book to keep. An experimental evaluation of low-income families showed that participation in the program led to higher levels of families’ literacy orientation, of older children’s vocabulary scores, and in the amount of weekly family reading than families who were not in the program.


Target population: Families with young children

Reach Out and Read (ROR) began in 1989 as a literacy-promoting service for families with young children (age 6 months to 5 years). The program was designed to make early literacy an integral part of pediatric primary care and thereby encourage parents to read aloud to their children. During well-child checkups, pediatricians encourage parents to read to their children and provide developmentally appropriate guidance in reading aloud. Children are given a book to keep, and volunteers in the waiting rooms read aloud to children in order to model shared book reading for parents.

Pediatric care offices receive funding to purchase books after having applied and been accepted into the program. Programs require a part-time on-site coordinator and a Medical Director (a staff physician or nurse practitioner); providers must participate in ROR training.

  • Number of Children in Program: 3.8 million children served annually in 4,500 Sites nationwide
  • Length: Children age 6 months to 5 years are eligible.
  • Intensity: Intervention occurs during well-child checkups.
  • Service Delivery Mode: There are three components-during well-child checkups, pediatricians encourage parents to read to their children, children are given a book to take home and keep, and volunteers model reading aloud to children in the waiting room.


High, P. C., LaGasse, L., Becker, S., Ahlgren, I. & Gardner, A. (2000). Literacy promotion in primary care pediatrics: Can we make a difference? Pediatrics, 105(4), 927-934.

Evaluated population: 205 low-income families with 5- to 11-month-old children

Approach: 106 families were randomly assigned to receive the intervention, and the rest received no intervention. Parents were interviewed after their children had an average of 3.4 well-child visits. A total of 153 families were included at this point, and toddlers were 18.4 months old, on average. Parents were asked if their children understood or said each of 100 words. Family literacy orientations were measured by seeing if parents mentioned reading aloud as one of their children’s favorite activities, or as one of their own favorite activities with their children.

Results: Compared to levels measured at the beginning of the study, intervention families had a 40% increase in literacy orientation, while control group families had a 16% increase. Vocabulary scores were higher for older intervention toddlers (18-25 months old), but not younger toddlers (13-17 months old). Furthermore, the difference in amount of reading was also significant-intervention families averaged 4.3 days per week, while control families averaged 2.8 days per week.



High, P. C., LaGasse, L., Becker, S., Ahlgren, I. & Gardner, A. (2000). Literacy promotion in primary care pediatrics: Can we make a difference? Pediatrics, 105(4), 927-934.


Program also discussed in the following Child Trends publication(s):

Child Trends. (2001). School readiness: Helping communities get children ready for school and schools ready for children (Research brief). Washington, DC: Child Trends.

Halle, T., Zaff, J., Calkins, J., & Margie, N. G. (2000). Background for community-level work on school readiness: A review of definitions, assessments, and investment strategies. Part II: Reviewing the literature on contributing factors to school readiness. Washington, DC: Child Trends, Inc.


Program categorized in this guide according to the following:

Evaluated participant ages: 5-11 months (at program debut) / Program age ranges in the Guide: 0-5

Program components: clinic or provider-based, parent or family component

Measured outcomes: education and cognitive development

KEYWORDS: Early Childhood (0-5), Infants (0-12 months), Toddlers (12-36 months), Children (3-11), Clinic-based, White or Caucasian, Hispanic or Latino, African American or Black, Early Childhood Education, High-Risk, Urban, Education, Reading

Program information last updated 10/15/09