Four-year-old Faith Mbabali actually looks forward to visiting her pediatrician — in part because at each visit she gets to read a new book that she can then take home with her. This is possible because of a nonprofit called Reach Out and Read, which provides new, developmentally-appropriate books to young children and early literacy guidance to their parents during regular pediatric checkups.
Liberty Bank Foundation has supported Reach Out and Read with two grants: one for the program Faith participates in at Mansfield Pediatrics, and more recently at Pediatric Care Center in Bristol, where Liberty’s $10,000 grant enabled the launch of the program.
There are 71 health care providers in Connecticut that participate in Reach Out and Read, serving nearly 40,000 children and families. Numerous research projects have proven that families served by Reach Out and Read read together more often, and their children enter kindergarten with larger vocabularies and stronger language skills, better prepared to achieve their full potential.
Through Reach Out and Read, each child starts kindergarten with a home library of approximately 10 books and a parent who has heard at every well-child visit about the importance of books and reading. The program begins at the 6-month checkup and continues through age 5, with a special emphasis on children growing up in low-income families.
Faith’s father, Mugagga Mbabali, said, “Whenever my daughter comes to the doctor, it gives her an opportunity to further expand her skills in reading, identifying colors, and other skills while she waits for her appointment. It instills in her that visiting the doctor is something that’s fun, not frightening.” He added that he reads to his daughter frequently, often using the books from Reach Out and Read.
At the foundation, we were impressed with the volume of research showcased on the Reach Out and Read website that documents the impact of parents reading to their children, even in infancy. In fact, the American Association of Pediatrics has declared that promoting literacy is an essential element of pediatric care, saying that it promotes optimal brain development and stronger parent-child relationships.
But as far as Faith is concerned, she’s just having fun. Her summation: “I like Daddy to read the best!”