Primary Care practices being recruited to participate in program

BALTIMORE (March 21, 2013) – The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) and the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) today joined the Maryland Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (MDAAP) to promote the Reach Out and Read Program, which is currently recruiting Primary Care practices to help promote early literacy by making books a routine part of care.

In 2012, MDAAP received a four year, $1.4 million grant from MSDE as part of the Federal Race to the Top funding to bring the evidence-based program Reach Out and Read to 75,000 low-income children by December 31, 2015.  To accomplishment this goal, the Chapter is establishing Reach Out and Read programs at practices/clinics in Maryland which currently do not have the program and which have a majority of patients who are low income.

Reach Out and Read is a nonprofit organization that promotes early literacy and school readiness nationwide by partnering with pediatricians, who give new books to children and advice to parents about the importance of reading aloud.

“Reading is a critical part of childhood and is important for a child’s overall health,” said Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, Secretary of DHMH. “Reach Out and Read allows pediatricians to help their patients get the benefits of books from the beginning.”

“Reach Out and Read promotes healthy minds much the same way as pediatric check-ups promote healthy bodies,” said State Superintendent of Schools Lillian M. Lowery.  “This program offers a unique opportunity to provide Maryland’s youngest learners a running start on their education by instilling a love of books.  We appreciate the support we’ve had from the Maryland Chapter of the MDAAP.”

The opportunity to participate in Reach Out and Read is something many pediatricians want, but the cost has kept many from participating.  This grant has allowed MDAAP to offer the Reach Out and Read Program to its members at no cost through December 31, 2015.

According to Dr. Eric Levey, MDAAP member and chair of the statewide Reach Out and Read Council, “Many young children have more contact with their pediatrician than any other professional.  Reach Out and Read utilizes this relationship to promote early childhood literacy by having pediatricians demonstrate to parents that reading to their children is critically important.”

So far, the grant has allowed the chapter to extend Reach Out and Read to nine practices in eight jurisdictions across the state. As a result, nearly 12,000 children are now receiving new books at their well visits. The Chapter is actively recruiting additional primary care practices to participate in the program.

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