Early Literacy Research Library (ELRL) - Article

Reach Out and Read is Feasible and Effective for Adolescent Mothers: A Pilot Study

Kumar, M.M., Cowan, H.R., Erdman, L. Kaufman, M., Hick, K.M. (2016) Reach Out and Read is Feasible and Effective for Adolescent Mothers: A Pilot Study. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 20(3), 630–638.,

Access: Institutional Access

Publication year


study description

Randomized controlled pilot study.

core topic(s)

Reach Out and Read (ROR)

Population Characteristics

Adolescent , International , Pregnancy/Postpartum

Exposures, Outcomes, Other

Child Behaviors and Skills , Mental Health , Parent Behaviors and Skills , Validity, Reliability, Feasibility, and Acceptability


This pilot evaluated the feasibility and effectiveness of ROaR among adolescent mothers and their children.


Reach Out and Read (ROR).

outcomes evaluated

Family shared reading and maternal depression.


The Young Families Program (YFP) at The Hospital for Sick Children in is a primary care “teen-tot” clinic for adolescent mothers and their infants in downtown Toronto, Canada.


This randomized controlled pilot followed thirty adolescent mothers with children aged 6–20 months in a teen-tot clinic in downtown Toronto. At each of three consecutive well child checkups, intervention families received a new children’s book, reading-related anticipatory guidance customized to the mother’s developmental stage, counselling from a librarian, and a public library card. Control families received routine care. At baseline and study completion, all mothers completed a survey on family reading patterns and the Beck Depression Inventory-Revised (BDI-IA).

sample size

n=30 (mother/child dyads)


Measure of Maternal Depression: Beck Depression Inventory-Revised (BDI-IA)


Measure of Family Reading Patterns: survey employed by previous ROR studies:

    • “What are your child’s 3 favorite things to do?”
    • “What are your 3 favorite things to do with your child?”
    • “How many days each week do you or another caregiver at home (e.g. baby’s father, grandparent) read children’s books with your child?’”


Though regression models were not statistically significant, bivariate analyses at study completion revealed that intervention mothers were significantly more likely than controls to report reading as one of the child’s favorite activities (29 vs 0 %) and had significantly lower maternal depression scores (7.0 vs 12.5; ≥10 = clinically significant depression). Trends for all other variables, including time spent reading together and maternal enjoyment of reading, were also in the direction of benefit. This program was implemented at minimal cost and adopted permanently following study completion. 


This feasible and developmentally appropriate intervention shows promise in promoting shared book reading and reducing maternal depression within adolescent-headed families, warranting investigation with larger trials.


An important limitation of this study was its small sample size, which resulted in inadequate power to establish statistical significance. The study was also implemented in a single clinic, which may limit its generalizability to other centers. Additionally, it lacked long-term follow-up of parental reading behavior and filial developmental trajectories. However, the encouraging effect sizes in this pilot study warrant larger trials involving a variety of primary care settings. Future studies could examine whether the intervention’s positive effects on adolescent mothers’ behavior are sustained over time and whether the intervention positively affects children’s developmental outcomes. Qualitative research could explore factors that motivate adolescent parents to read to their children as well as the challenges they face in doing so.