Reading levels soar in 5 pilot counties in Alabama—learn who’s helping make the improvements


Reach Out and Read-Alabama
Early reading leads to big benefits. (Reach Out and Read-Alabama)

Children in Jefferson County and other areas in the state are reaching their full potential through an early reading intervention campaign. Read on to learn how Reach Out and Read-Alabama is making it happen, plus the incredible impact it’s made on local families.

A look at Reach Out and Read-Alabama

Reach Out and Read-Alabama
Tatianna Bidikov, MD, of Model City Pediatrics is part of the Reach Out and Read-Alabama program, which begins at birth and continues through age 5. (Reach Out and Read-Alabama)

If you haven’t heard of Reach Out and Read-Alabama, prepare to smile. The nonprofit is all about getting families of young children reading together to create positive results. Their mission: to provide an opportunity for low-income children in Alabama to receive books from their health care provider, and for every parent to receive encouragement to reach to their child every.

Why is reading together so important? According to Reach Out and Read-Alabama, reading daily and engaging in language-rich activities with young children, promotes healthy brain development, furthers language acquisition and helps families build meaningful bonds.

“The bonding time that is created with a parent and a child sharing a book together can’t be underestimated as parents put down their cell phones and distractions and spend that one-on-one time with their youngster. 

It’s really not about ‘how smart can my child be, let me teach them through this book’, but more so, ‘let me spend this valuable one-on-one time with him or her to cuddle, love them, hear what they are thinking and how they view the world through this book.’”

Maria Meyers, M.D., Jefferson County Department of Health

Want to get involved with Reach Out and Read-Alabama? Hop over here to find a program in your area, host a virtual book drive, donate and more.

Alabama’s Grade-Level Reading Campaign

Reach Out and Read-Alabama
Happy faces after the announcement of the Grade-Level Reading Campaign. (Reach Out and Read-Alabama)

July 2022 marks one year since Governor Kay Ivey announced a new partnership that would assist Reach Out and Read-Alabama and their mission to integrate reading aloud into pediatric care by providing books and coaching to help families make reading a part of their daily routine. Cool, right? 

The partnership also includes state agencies like the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education (ADECE), Alabama Medicaid Agency (AMA) and the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH).

What led to the Grade-Level Reading Campaign? According to Reach Out and Read-Alabama, 53% of Alabama children aren’t proficient in reading by fourth grade. This percentage is even higher for the pilot counties the campaign serves. 

Through the Grade-Level Reading Campaign, Reach Out and Read-Alabama was able to expand its services to children living in these five pilot counties:

  • Jefferson
  • Macon
  • Marshall
  • Monroe
  • Randolph

“Reach Out and Read significantly impacts children by providing greater exposure to reading during the all-important early years. We want parents to understand how important it is to read to their children. Research shows a major difference between children who are read to on a regular basis and those who have a word gap. Families served by the program will read together more often, and their children will enter school with larger vocabularies and stronger language skills, better prepared to achieve their potential.”

Dr. Barbara Cooper, Secretary, Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education

The Outcome

Reach Out and Read-Alabama
Get kids hooked on reading at a young age. (Reach Out and Read-Alabama)

Here’s how the Reach Out and Read-Alabama program works:

  • Providers are trained to give an age-appropriate, culturally-sensitive, new book to children during their exam. The book is used as a tool for assessment and guidance. 
  • Children ages 0-5 receive two books per year during well-child visits.

Families served by the program benefit in several ways:

  • Access to books will encourage them to read together more often.
  • Children will enter school with larger vocabularies and stronger language skills.
  • Children will be better prepared to achieve their full potential. 

Check out this stat: Reach Out and Read-Alabama has provided more than 1.6 million new books to vulnerable children in Alabama through over 300 prescribing medical providers in 60 practices and clinics. 

Here’s a look at just some of the practices in Jefferson County taking part in the Reach Out and Read program: 

Want to learn more about Read Out and Read-Alabama and how they’re creating readers across the state? Visit their website and follow them on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. You can also click here to find a program in your area, host a virtual book drive, donate and more!

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