Gov. Kay Ivey announces new state partnership to get kids reading

The program partners health care providers and educators with kids to get book into their hands.

“Reach Out and Read” is a partnership of the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education (ADECE), Alabama Medicaid Agency (AMA), and the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH). Funding from these agencies will go to five Alabama counties as part of the pilot program: Macon, Marshall, Monroe, Jefferson and Randolph.

Children in these areas will receive their own, brand-new, age-appropriate books at each well-child visit (two books per year) as reading aloud becomes part of pediatric care, with families getting information on the importance of reading and reading aloud. They’ll also receive coaching on how to make reading a daily activity.

Reach Out and Read-Alabama is a program of the Alabama Chapter-American Academy of Pediatrics. Reach Out and Read has provided more than 1.6 million new books to vulnerable children in Alabama through over 300 prescribing medical providers in 53 practices and clinics.

Governor Kay Ivey launched the Alabama Campaign for Grade-Level Reading initiative to support Alabama students in achieving reading proficiency by the third grade.

“Since my call to action to launch the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading one year ago, we have made great progress. Under the Reach Out and Read program, the pilot counties have developed and began implementing comprehensive literacy strategies from which the rest of the state can learn,” Governor Ivey said. “Alabamians should be proud that state agencies are working together to improve literacy by exposing children to books early on through the Reach Out and Read program, as well as improving their health and well-being.”

Reach Out and Read targets children from birth to age four, with an emphasis on disadvantaged communities, to help prepare children to “enter school with larger vocabularies and stronger language skills, better prepared to achieve their potential.”

“The ADECE is excited to join forces with the Alabama Medicaid Agency and CHIP to include Reach Out and Read in the five pilot counties for the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading,” ADECE Secretary Barbara Cooper said. “This will be a great resource for improving language and literacy that we hope to spread throughout the state in the years to come.  I hope that families will use the books they receive to continue reading to their children and instill within them a lifetime joy of reading.”

“We are excited about the opportunities that the Reach Out and Read program provides for the children and their families,” said Medicaid Commissioner Stephanie Azar. “Medicaid fully supports this initiative which incorporates the development of language and skills that will positively impact children for their lifetime. This initiative not only helps with improving literacy but also will lead to children being more likely to attend well-child checkups, resulting in more children receiving vaccinations on schedule.”

State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris also supports the plan. He said, “Participating families in these pilot counties will continue to reap the many lifelong benefits of this evidence-based program during a crucial period of development for their children. When parents and caregivers are provided the resources to read age-appropriate books aloud to young children and engage with them, a foundation is built for good health and success in life. We are pleased that the Children’s Health Insurance Program can contribute to this important initiative.”

About 24,000 children and their families will benefit from the Reach Out and Read program.