Stronger together has been the catch phrase of the year and never more true than for the entire Reach Out and Read network. Our network is vast and comprised of a National Center, State and Regional affiliates, University and Health Care systems, and independent medical sites. Although there are variances that make each unique, our collective commitment to each other this past year will forever bind us together in new and meaningful ways. We have navigated through the Twin Pandemics of COVID-19 and social justice inequities leaving no one unscathed. Every day there was uncertainty and yet we understood that often adversity brings growth and change. We have learned so much about what it means to lean in and listen to one another and to reflect about ways we can bring about change – change that will create settings where families thrive and have access to resources regardless of the neighborhood they call home, or the color of their skin. And, we have never been more firmly rooted in our belief that although there is never a silver bullet, or a one size fits all solution, we feel more convicted than ever that every child deserves the right to learn to read. Every child deserves access to a Reach Out and Read trained pediatricians who help families foster healthy routines like reading together, and creating special moments through positive interactions for the best start in life.
This year our Georgia team participated in an Early Relational Health learning journey, DEI trainings and focus groups, facilitated sessions for our Virtual National Leadership Conference, launched Telehealth and Beginning at Birth in select counties, and double downed on our commitment to selecting children’s books rich in diversity through our Mirrors and Windows initiative, served on many National Task Force committees and the Reach Out and Read National Board of Directors. At the core of our mission, we know that to improve outcomes for children we must deliver high quality programming that is consistent and maintains fidelity at all times. To ensure fidelity, our programmatic team members conducted over 207 virtual site visits with hospitals, clinics, and pediatric offices offering training, support, resources (books, bookmarks, parent engagement tip sheets, etc.) and technical assistance to 170+ sites in 66 counties across Georgia. They seamlessly adapted to working remote delivering incredible results all while navigating a new normal with young children at home and all the demands associated with being a parent. I am so proud of our team.
There is strong demand for our program, across the country and especially in Georgia, with over 106 medical practices with applications in process. And we know the need is there with one out of every six Georgian’s living in poverty and 73% of all African American and 68.5% Hispanic 3rd graders in Georgia not reading at grade level proficiency. Poverty affects child development, parent-child interactions, and family functioning. When families are isolated, lack resources, live with greater stress and instability, or view their child’s temperament as difficult, there is higher risk of negative child health and behavioral outcomes. These risk factors also affect children’s language, cognitive, and social-emotional development. Our program is researched based, scalable, and proven to be effective. Leveling the playing field, bridging the economic, education and health inequities gap begins with a collective commitment to investing in researched based interventions like Reach Out and Read. Someone recently asked, “What is it going to take to make Reach Out and Read a standard of care for all children?” We are working hard to answer that question and believe it starts with a commitment for state level line-item funding – along with state agency, foundation, corporate and individual contributions. We have demonstrated progress in all these areas and yet we know there is more work to be done and so we are prioritizing our legislative strategy for FY22 and invite all stakeholders to join us, as we know we cannot do this work alone.
As we close out FY21 we are deeply grateful to have reached our revenue goal raising $965,224 in funding and in-kind donations from the generosity and support of over 400 incredible donors and partners. Thank you to all who stepped up and affirmed your support this year in so many ways. Thank you for giving in the absence of us even asking at times. Thank you to all the new individuals who chose to give a gift in uncertain times. Thank you to all the new foundations that answered our call and placed your trust in us. And a huge note of gratitude to our existing foundation, United Way, and state agency partners for their continuity of support and increased investments. Sustaining these partnerships allows us to plan and have the right infrastructure in place to be a model affiliate in the National network.
A special thanks to our National Leadership team, National Board of Directors, our Georgia Advisory Board, ROR Inc. affiliate leaders, volunteers, pediatricians, and medical providers who have demonstrated tremendous leadership and fortitude in the year of dueling pandemics and unrelenting challenges. And, to the 140,000 children and families we ae working hard for every day – you have all demonstrated resilience and perseverance in a multitude of ways and we are so proud of you. WE DID IT! And we did it together!
With 5 days left in our fiscal year our aspirational goal is to reach the $1M mark and so we invite everyone to give a gift in any amount to help us reach this lofty goal. Click here to make a donation today.
We have served our families well and our families are finding light at the end of a long year and a spirit of optimism and rebirth in the air. We are gearing up for a wonderful summer of reading, exploring, and continuing to grow together.
Amy Erickson, Executive Director, Reach Out and Read Georgia
“What is it going to take to make Reach Out and Read a standard of care for all children?”
Please contact Amy Erickson, Executive Director at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how you can get involved.