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For infants and children up to age 3 — when more than 80% of the brain is developed — the power of engaging with words while reading with someone is transformative and can set them up for good health — including physical, behavioral, and social health.

Reading with children promotes healthy brain formation while increasing listening skills and vocabulary. Parents or children who are deaf, hard of hearing, or non-speaking read together by presenting the information in the book visually — by translating into a signed language or visually connecting story concepts to the real world.

Children who have frequent reading time with someone have stronger recognition of letters and sounds and increase their ability to remember. Even their levels of empathy, curiosity, and attention increase.

Children who have frequent reading time with someone have stronger recognition of letters and sounds and increase their ability to remember. Even their levels of empathy, curiosity, and attention increase.

In addition to the cognitive benefits, reading together also supports emotional bonding between children and the person reading with them. Looking at the readers’ faces and being held physically close can help minimize children’s anxiety while promoting feelings of security and connectedness. Those positive associations with reading can then extend throughout the children’s lives.

With such clear child health benefits from reading together, how do we help get books to more children — especially those who don't currently have books at home?

Reach Out and Read

Reach Out and Read created an innovative, convenient, and effective way to make that happen. It gives children across the United States new, developmentally appropriate books during well-child medical visits. Reach Out and Read serves 4.2 million children through 40,000 clinicians. Its model is capable of reaching 90% of children throughout the U.S.

Families served by the Reach Out and Read program are 2.5 times more likely to read with their children under 3.

Reach Out and Read research has found that families served by its network are 2.5 times more likely to read with their children under age 3. Their children experienced more rapid language development, including their ability to understand and process the meaning of messages as well as to express them.

The program has a secondary child health benefit: Families in the program have increased well-child visit attendance. These visits, along with increased developmental assessments, improve the early detection, referral, and treatment of developmental delays in young children. They ensure appropriate access to immunizations, anticipatory guidance, and developmental screenings.

Whole-health Approach to Reading

This whole-health approach provides a strong physical health foundation while enriching the family’s home life and the child’s path to literacy. Trusted pediatricians giving books to children and encouraging parents and others to read with them and have conversations about the book’s pictures is a proven way to optimize early brain development and to help improve individual health outcomes, promote community health, and increase the opportunities for success.

Elevance Health takes a holistic approach that can transform health, considering not just traditional physical factors, but behavioral and social factors, too. We’re proud to support Reach Out and Read through charitable donations. Their innovative and effective whole-health model helps improve the physical, behavioral, and social health of children from newborn to age 3, contributing the thinking and methods needed to transform the delivery of healthcare.

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