Boston, Mass. (WTVA) -- Reach Out and Read has been awarded a $20,000 grant by Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Mississippi, Inc. to launch school readiness programs in Union and Lee counties.
The grant will provide new, developmentally-appropriate books and early literacy guidance to 1,000 young children in the two counties during regular pediatric checkups.
Although Reach Out and Read serves more than 24,000 children annually via 22 locations throughout Mississippi, there are currently no program sites in Union and Lee counties.
“We are so grateful to Toyota Mississippi for helping us to bring our critical early literacy intervention to children and families in the Tupelo and New Albany areas,” said Reach Out and Read Executive Director Anne-Marie Fitzgerald. “We know that the first five years of life offer a crucial window for learning, with rapid brain development that does not occur at any other time. Many children, especially those from low-income families, are not read to from birth. Reach Out and Read’s medical providers work with families to prepare children to enter kindergarten ready to read, learn, and succeed.”
Reach Out and Read’s model includes providing a new, age-appropriate book for each child to take home at every checkup from 6 months through 5 years.
Along with the free book for every child, doctors and nurses provide guidance to parents about the importance of reading aloud with their children every day.
Nationwide, Reach Out and Read doctors and nurses serve 4 million children and their families annually at nearly 5,000 pediatric practices, hospitals, clinics, and health centers in all 50 states, with a focus on centers that reach low-income communities.
According to 2011 U.S. Census data, 31 percent of children ages 5 and under in Lee and Union counties live in poverty.
Since 2011, Reach Out and Rad has doubled its presence in Mississippi, where 78 percent of fourth graders read below a proficient level.
“We are excited to support Reach Out and Read and its important work to promote early literacy in Mississippi,” said Emily Holland, TMMMS external affairs specialist. “This organization truly helps children in need start school on track, and reach their full educational, social, and life potential.”
Reach Out and Read is a proven intervention, supported by 15 independent, published research studies.
During the preschool years, children served by Reach Out and Read score three to six months ahead of their non-Reach Out and Read peers on vocabulary tests, preparing them to start school on target.