Reach Out and Read incorporates books into pediatric care and encourage families to read aloud together starting at infancy. Reach Out and Read program nurses and doctors equip parents with tools and knowledge to prepare their children to learn when they start school by strengthening children's language skills and vocabulary. The program targets children and families living in poverty.
The literature for Reach Out and Read does not extend beyond evidence for early literacy, language skills and vocabulary, therefore we were unable to model the long-term impact of this program. The literature treats those outcomes as end goals, instead of linking them to further outcomes. Future program evaluations that measure outcomes such as test scores, high school graduation rates and employment rates will help to strengthen the evidence for this program.
“When I talk with parents about preparing their child for success in school, they listen very carefully. Many of our parents have not finished high school, and some have not finished elementary levels. They are so relieved that they can ‘read’ books just by telling a story about the pictures.”
- A Reach Out and Read Medical Provider in Colorado
The literature for Reach Out and Read does not extend beyond evidence for early literacy, language skills and vocabulary, therefore we were unable to model the long-term impact of this program.
To estimate the impact of a program or policy, we use systematic literature reviews to determine causal pathways and effect sizes. Well-researched interventions that have robust, high-quality evaluations allow us to model the impact of an intervention with greater certainty. However, sometimes interventions have limited evidence and not all of the outcomes that are likely to be associated with the intervention have been studied. In those cases, we can only model what is available in the evidence base. We urge future research to take the following gaps into consideration.
Academic Achievement - Reach Out and Read has been shown to increase the frequency with which low income parents read to their children and improve emergent literacy. However, emergent literacy itself hasn't been clearly linked to later academic achievement outcomes, nor has Reach Out and Read itself been directly linked to these indicators.
High School Graduation - Research indicates that children who do not read proficiently by the end of 3rd grade are four times more likely to drop out of school than their peers. The effect is stronger for children living in families with low income. However, to our knowledge the direct effect of Reach Out and Read on high school graduation has not been studied.
Employment - High School graduation is strongly associated with greater employment and higher lifetime earnings.