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The Need

Early literacy – for even the youngest children – is critical: Reading difficulty can lead to school failure, chronic absenteeism, and school drop out.

By placing books in the hands of young children and their families, Reach Out and Read Greater Philadelphia doctors and nurses are putting Philadelphia’s most disadvantaged children on the path to reading success.

The Value of Early Intervention

By the time they enter kindergarten, children who are read to more than 3 times a week are1:

  • Twice as likely to score in the top 25 percent of readers
  • More likely to have mastered letter-sound relationships
  • Better able to understand words in context and have more sight recognition of words

The need for early literacy intervention is dire, especially for our youngest children:

  • 16 percent of parents of children age three years and younger do not read at all with their children, and 23 percent do so only once or twice a week.2
  • For low-income families, these percentages are even lower. Families living in poverty often lack the money to buy books and are unable to access the library system. Parents who have not been read to as children themselves may not realize the tremendous value of reading to their own children.
  • In Greater Philadelphia there are nearly 55,000 children under the age of 5 – that’s more than one out of five — who live at or below the poverty level. These children are at particular risk for reading difficulties.3

Struggles with literacy impact nearly every aspect of a child’s life, increasing the risk of juvenile delinquency, substance abuse, and teenage pregnancy — all of which perpetuate the cycles of poverty and dependency.

Today, Reach Out and Read Greater Philadelphia reaches nearly 65 percent of the area’s at-risk children, building reading skills that will last a lifetime.

With your help, we can do more. Here’s how.

Download the Policy Case for Reach Out and Read (PDF)


1Denton, Kristen and Gerry West: Children’s Reading and Mathematics Achievement in Kindergarten and First Grade. U.S. Department of Education, NCES, Washington, DC, 2002.

2Young, KT, Davis K, Schoen C, et al: Listening to parents. A national survey of parents with young children. Arch. Pediatric Adolesc Med 1998;152:255

3Philadelphia Citizens for Children and Youth, 2006, based on 2005 ACS, U.S. Census Bureau

“Educating parents about the importance of reading should become a standard part of what pediatricians do, much as health and safety guidance is now. What pediatricians do through programs like Reach Out and Read is just as important as immunizations, car seats, vitamins and good nutrition.”

— Laura Bush
American Academy of Pediatrics National Meeting, 2002