Residency Training Promotes the Growth of Reach Out and Read

Since 1989, Reach Out and Read has experienced a long and steady program growth that has been largely driven by medical providers learning about Reach Out and Read during their residency training and then seeking to carry it forward wherever they go next. Residents and other medical providers who encounter our program in one place often notice that with Reach Out and Read, their relationships with their patients improve. They notice that a beautiful, age-appropriate book is a bridge to many conversations and provides a dynamic tool to conduct developmental surveillance. Well-child checkup attendance often increases, as does clinic morale. Giving out books and talking about the important of regular shared reading during well-child checkups connects to why most pediatricians become pediatricians: to help provide children a foundation from which they can thrive.

Understanding this residency training trend that has led to our ongoing programmatic growth and, along with it, incremental systemic changes to pediatric care, we are now piloting our first ever Reach Out and Read training specifically designed for medical residents. Made possible in partnership with the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation, the Brindle Foundation, and other partners, we will be delivering and evaluating this new training in parts of Upstate New York, New Mexico, and Oklahoma.

In this sample residency training video you can see how, when Reach Out and Read is delivered with fidelity, a medical provider is poised to build a connection with a family and support early relationship building. Reach Out and Read also provides a dynamic way for providers to conduct developmental surveillance, evaluating Bright Futures milestones at all visits from birth through 5 years. Giving a book early in the visit allows providers to observe fine and gross motor, cognitive, language, literacy, relational, and social-emotional development, thus helping to streamline the visit.

Speaking to the importance of the pilot residency training at University of New Mexico, Doctor Daniel Coles at Santa Fe Indian Hospital said that his practice was transformed when he first learned about Reach Out and Read:

“When a doctor in training is taught to discuss reading and to give out books, he or she learns how to empower families, a skill that is hard to teach and often neglected. Once I started telling parents about how regular reading with their kids could lower their risk for school frustration and failure, I realized that I could focus my discussions with families on other topics with the goal of empowering them to make healthy choices. My practice was transformed! I would go into each visit seeking opportunities to boost each family’s ability to take charge of their child’s health and the inroad to these discussions was gifting them a book which represents the power they have: just unfold the cover and get to the fun!”

By piloting this new training across geographies and clinical sites where we serve rural and inner-city patients—and families that are longtime residents as well as recent refugees—we will also learn along the way how we can best leverage residency training to ensure that every child receives pediatric care that incorporates high-quality support for a child’s first and most important relationships.

Doctor Alexandria Caldwell, a Clinical Instructor in pediatrics at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and the director of this project says, “Our hope is to improve the care that residents provide in the exam room as it pertains to literacy promotion and promote early relational health through Reach Out and Read. We thought if we could design and then evaluate a curriculum tailored for trainees working with pediatric patients, that we could impact not only the patients they see in their continuity clinics, but the patients they see across their careers.”