Reach Out and Read Helps Children

TMA Testimony by Jim Lukefahr, MD

House Higher Education Committee
House Bill 2741 by Rep. Giovanni Capriglione
Testimony of the Texas Pediatric Society  and Texas Medical Association

April 22, 2015

Good afternoon Chair and members of the committee. My name is Jim Lukefahr, MD and I am a pediatrician from San Antonio. Today I’m testifying on behalf of the Texas Pediatric Society and Texas Medical Association, representing over 48,000 physicians and 3,500 pediatricians in Texas. We are testifying in full support of HB 2741 and we thank Rep. Capriglione for authoring this bill.

The benefits to reading aloud to children at an early age are well known. Years of studies tell us this is one of the most crucial ways to ensure a child develops optimal patterns of brain development, strengthens the parent-child relationship and builds language, literacy and social-emotional skills that last throughout the lifetime. As a practicing pediatrician I know the unique opportunity I have to encourage parents to engage with their children in this important activity. Pediatricians and other medical providers are often the first contact for a family and a trusted authority on all things associated with childhood development. For these reasons the American Academy of Pediatrics has acknowledged that literacy promotion is an essential component of pediatric primary care.  Literacy promotion via the physician’s office is at the heart of the Reach Out and Read program.

The Reach Out and Read Program is a national evidence-based, best-practice early literacy program that trains doctors and nurses to advise parents about the importance of reading. The program also provides books to children at pediatric check-ups from 6 months to 6 years of age and promotes a literacy-rich and learning environment in the physician’s office through volunteer readers modeling reading practices for parents. The body of published research supporting the efficacy of the Reach Out and Read model suggests parents who are served by the program are up to four times more likely to read aloud to their children and children score three to six months ahead of their peers on vocabulary tests during their preschool years.  Early literacy initiatives like Reach Out and Read are especially important right now in Texas where only 41% of young Texas children are read to daily and only 29% of 4th graders are at or above the standard: “Proficient in Reading”.

Governor Abbott has acknowledged these troubling statistics and has advocated for early literacy interventions through his Educating Texans Plan. The Reach Out and Read program is an established evidence base intervention tackling this problem right now by serving approximately 480,000 children each year – partnering with nearly 1300 pediatric providers at 282 active sites across Texas. However, the need in Texas is much larger. To date, there are more than 138 unsolicited site applications pending with the program. Approval of only these sites would provide valuable early literacy intervention to more than 240,000 more children. That’s 240,000 more children school ready and on track to excel in the academic setting. Still, this is only a segment of the need. With more than 2.3 million children in Texas under the age of 5, we have a ways to go to ensure all Texas children have access to evidence based early literacy interventions.

In closing, HB 2741 will provide much needed support for Texas’ Reach Out and Read program. As a pediatrician who has implemented the Reach Out and Read program in my practice, demonstrated to residents how to implement it in their own practice and see the joy of a new mother reading to their child for the first time, I fully support this bill and hope that the committee will vote for it favorably.

Thank you for your time and attention to our state’s earliest learners.

 

Last Updated On

June 20, 2016