New Literacy Program Reaches Target Enrollment in First Year

More than 73,000 books distributed to children in Cincinnati

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

A new initiative to get more young children excited about reading has reached its initial goal with more than 8,500 children in Cincinnati now enrolled. Cincinnati Children’s is working with community partners on this unique collaboration to promote early childhood literacy and improve kindergarten readiness in children living in poverty within the Cincinnati Public School district. 

The program combines two early literacy programs: Reach Out and Read and the Cincinnati affiliate of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. 

Reach Out and Read prepares young children to succeed in school by partnering with healthcare providers at check-up visits. When children 5 years and under are seen at the health center, they receive a book and guidance about reading at home. Reach Out and Read is a national program that targets young children living in poverty. Twenty-three different health centers in Cincinnati participate in the program, reaching many of the young children living in poverty at more than 30,000 health visits a year.

Imagination Library is a program that sends books straight to the home to promote reading in young children. The program sends a book directly to enrolled children from 0-5 years once a month. This can result in a home library of 60 books by age 5. When children are seen at their Reach Out and Read healthcare provider, they are also enrolled in Imagination Library. 

“I see young patients enrolled in the initiative more excited now when I approach them with a new book in the clinic,” said Greg Szumlas, MD, medical director of Reach Out and Read/Imagination Library at Cincinnati Children’s. “I’m also seeing a heightened awareness in parents about the importance of reading to their children.”

Reading and sharing books with young children is critical in helping them learn and be ready for kindergarten. Many families living in poverty do not have many books to read, but just sending books to the home is not always enough. Parents also need to understand how important it is for them to read with their young child.

"The fact that this initiative has surpassed its goal of enrolling 8,500 children is a testament to parents' desire to help their children get a strong start in early literacy. I cannot say enough about the power of this partnership, which will help more children gain vital early reading skills by the time they enter school," said Cincinnati Public Schools Superintendent Mary Ronan.

This collaboration of the two programs has two significant advantages. Healthcare providers are one of the few people to see young children on a consistent basis. This has allowed the Cincinnati affiliate to quickly reach its target enrollment.

Secondly, children continue to be seen by their health care providers as they grow. At each visit, reading is encouraged and discussed so parents will remember to read every day.  The goal is to help children build home libraries, encourage a love of reading and ultimately increase the number of children who are more prepared for kindergarten each year.

“I enrolled my son last year in the program and he loves getting the books in the mail,” said Ouidad Riyahi of Corryville. “Without any initiation from me, he will grab the book and begin reading it on his own. That’s how much he enjoys them.” 

According to researchers at Cincinnati Children’s, reading exposure during the critical stage of development prior to kindergarten seems to have a measurable impact on how a child's brain processes stories. It also may help improve reading success by the end of third grade. They will analyze the kindergarten readiness scores of children who are in the Reach Out and Read/Imagination Library program versus those who are not in order to evaluate the differences. The analysis will take place over the next three years.

Every Child Capital is a new fund that invests in early literacy interventions that are proven to be effective in improving kindergarten readiness and 3rd grade reading and have a business case for public funding. In this respect, Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) has agreed to fund the program after three years, assuming the goals of the program have been achieved.

“This has been a huge success, and it shows you just how passionate Cincinnati’s pediatricians and parents are,” said Greg Landsman, strategic advisor to Every Child Capital, the fund that invested in this parent and book program. “Thousands of children are now getting a book a month, and parents who are more engaged in their literacy during these crucial early years of brain development.”

The pediatric practices that are members of the Greater Cincinnati Reach Out and Read Coalition are continuing to enroll children in the program. For more information, call 513-636-4271 or visit Reach Out and Read

About Every Child Capital

Every Child Capital is a venture philanthropy fund that funds early literacy interventions that are proven to be effective in improving kindergarten readiness and third grade reading and have a business case for public funding. Every Child Capital seeks to transform philanthropy to ensure more private and public dollars are directed toward what works and sustainable outcomes are achieved.

Contact Information

Shannon Kettler 
513-636-5218 (w)
513-205-6462 (c)
shannon.kettler@cchmc.org