Reach Out and Read, the Somerville, Mass.—based national literacy organization for preschoolers that combines well-child visits to doctors and nurses with giving out books, is celebrating its 15th anniversary by expanding a program introduced late last year for impoverished families in areas where health clinics can be as much as three hours away.
"What distinguishes ROR from other literacy programs is the relationship between doctor and patient and the advice about how to use the book with a child," said director of communications Nancy Berman. "We have a strong presence in urban areas; last year we provided books to two million children. We're starting a new Rural Outreach Initiative. The first places we've targeted are Alaska and South Dakota."
With seed money from the Hasbro Children's Foundation, ROR's Rural Outreach hopes to set up 75 new sites in 10 states over the next two years, according to national programs director Ron Bailey. Typical of the rural push are plans to get books into the less densely populated parts of states that are otherwise well reached by the program. "We've had a strong effort in the urban hubs of Florida," Bailey said by way of example, "but there's a whole central farming part of the state where a lot of migrants live, which it hasn't reached."
In states like Minnesota, which is also at the top of ROR's rural list, new programming for children who go to clinics on reservations is planned to supplement what is already being done in the Twin Cities.
In addition to Florida and Minnesota, ROR will offer books through health care facilities in rural communities in North Dakota and Virginia this spring. ROR currently has 2,000 programs for children ages six months to five years in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and Guam. ROR is affiliated with the department of pediatrics at Boston Medical Center, Boston University School of Medicine.