The Louis Calder Foundation Leads Building Connections Begins at Birth Work in Florida, New Jersey, and Georgia

Why does Dr. Jawaad Hussain of Cooper Pediatric Care in Camden, N.J., believe that Reach Out and Read should begin at the very beginning of a child’s life? “Starting at birth felt like I was walking in with a present every single visit,” Dr. Hussain said. “By receiving the book, parents were so receptive to everything I was telling them, and smiling, which in turn made the visit less stressful for the baby.” Dr. Hussain said that starting the program at birth promotes family bonding from day one and gives him unique insights into family dynamics.

This is echoed at clinics across New Jersey, Florida, and Georgia, where, with support from The Louis Calder Foundation, Affiliates have begun incorporating four additional well-child checkups into Reach Out and Read’s core model. Throughout the two-year partnership, we will distribute 33,600 books during 33,600 individual well-child visits.

At each Reach Out and Read well-child visit from birth through 5 years old, clinicians offer anticipatory guidance surrounding early relationships and literacy and give children a new developmentally, culturally, and linguistically responsive book to keep and build their home libraries. Our core model historically started at the 6-month well-child visit, yet early childhood research unequivocally demonstrates that this work truly begins at birth.

The first five months of a child’s life are when foundational relationships develop between a caregiver and child at an unparalleled rate. These relationships shape the trajectory of everything that follows: child development, family resilience, and perseverance through adversity. With Building Connections Begins at Birth, we are focusing on the earliest relationship between parent and child. We want to reach children in those first critical months of life, engage parents from the start, and deepen our support for families.

Dr. Usha Ramachandra, at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, said, “Reach Out and Read is one of the most gratifying parts of my work as a pediatrician. Building Connections Begins at Birth allows me to work with families in the first few months of life, a critical window of opportunity for a baby’s brain development and building strong relationships with caregivers.”

The project with The Louis Calder Foundation is a collaborative national effort, facilitating high-impact delivery of our evidence-based model and building of a community of learners as we scale this effort in each state and nationwide.