In a third-world country like the Philippines, most low-income families would not have books — or medical check-ups — on their priority list. Understandably, those living under the poverty line would rather spend whatever resources they have on immediate needs such as food and clothing. As a consequence, many children from low-income families enter school not prepared to learn and are at highest risk for reading failure that may ultimately lead to school failure.
Founded in 1989 at Boston City Hospital (now the Boston Medical Center), Reach Out and Read (ROR) is an evidence-based program that makes the promotion of early literacy a standard part of pediatric care, so children grow up with books and a love for reading. Reach Out and Read promotes not just early literacy, but also encourages parents to take their children for regular medical check-ups. At every well-child check up from six months to five years of age, the doctor would give the patient a new developmentally- and culturally-appropriate book to take home and keep.
Reach Out and Read Philippines (ROR-P) was established by the Philippine Ambulatory Pediatric Association in 2006 in hospital outpatient pediatric clinics and other healthcare settings. Doctors and nurses give advice to parents about the importance of reading aloud to their children and incorporate this with the preventive healthcare they provide in their clinics. Parents who may have difficulty reading are encouraged to invent their own stories to go with picture books and spend time naming objects with their children.
Research shows that children who receive the ROR intervention have higher expressive and receptive language abilities. Parents read more frequently to their children and identify reading aloud as a favorite activity. Through ROR, every five-year old child would have a home library of at least ten new books, and would start school prepared for success in reading.
The Philippines is one of the first few countries outside of the US that has implemented ROR. Reach Out and Read Philippines is now in three hospital pediatric clinics: the PCMC, V. Luna General Hospital of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the University of Santo Tomas Hospital Clinical Division. It plans to expand to more sites.