Research indicates that reading aloud is the most important thing parents can do to promote a child’s early literacy skills. Yet families living in poverty do not always have the resources to provide their children with age-appropriate books to foster an early love of reading. The Reach Out and Read program at the University of Maryland Hospital for Children gives new and gently used books to patients in its Pediatric Ambulatory Center and a $30,000 donation from The Comcast Foundation will fund the program for the next three years.
“We were part of the first regional Reach Out and Read program,” says Virginia Keane, M.D., director of the Pediatric Ambulatory Center at the University of Maryland Hospital for Children and an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “Since 1997, thanks to generous donations, we have provided our families with books and advice about the importance of reading to children. The Comcast grant will allow us to sustain our program for another three years, giving us enough funds to buy up to 5,000 books per year.”
According to Dr. Keane, the Reach Out and Read program has distributed thousands of books since its inception. New books are given to children from the ages of six months to five-years-old at regularly-scheduled well-child checkups so that they can accumulate a small library of books. Gently used books are given out at other appointments to children of all ages, including teenagers. Parents are given a “prescription” to read to their child on a regular basis.
“The Reach Out and Read program offers parents advice on how to read to their children as well as the tools to do just that,” says Dr. Keane. “Research shows that our program can enhance a child’s interest in books. The frequency of reading aloud in the home improves a child’s language skills and early school readiness.”
“Supporting initiatives that develop literacy is a top priority for us at Comcast,” says Barbara A. Gehrig, senior vice president of Comcast’s Maryland-Delaware Region. “We’re excited that this Comcast Foundation President’s Fund grant will enable the University of Maryland Hospital for Children to reach a greater number of families.”
Complementing the $30,000 grant is a donation of more than 600 children’s books, the outcome of a successful Comcast employee-driven book drive.
The Reach Out and Read program began at Boston Medical Center in 1991. It has expanded to over 3,000 sites in the United States. There are 30 active Reach Out and Read sites in Baltimore.
The Comcast Foundation was founded by Comcast Corporation in June 1999 and is the company’s chief source of charitable support to qualified non-profit organizations.
The Foundation primarily invests in programs that work to create a positive, sustainable impact within our communities in the areas of volunteerism; literacy; and youth leadership development. Since its inception, The Comcast Foundation has donated more than $30 million to organizations in the communities where Comcast serves. More information about The Foundation and its programs is available at www.comcast.com under “In the Community.”
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