Widely known as Shelby County’s affiliate of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, Porter-Leath’s Books from Birth program also promotes early literacy through Reach Out and Read, a national organization which connects families of young children with books and early literacy resources during their regular visits to the doctor’s office. As a naturally trusted provider of information related to their child’s growth and development, clinicians can have a conversation with caregivers about the benefits of reading aloud with children beginning at birth.
At each well child visit, children and their families are given books and tips on practicing language skills at home. By discussing early literacy as a part of a child’s health, pediatricians provide caregivers with a better understanding of how important reading and language are to their child’s ability to reach developmental milestones.
Shelby County currently has four health partners which include Reach Out and Read in their patients’ well visits: UT LeBonheur Pediatric Specialist, and three Christ Community Health Services locations at Broad Avenue, Hickory Hill and Orange Mound. In 2020, these four partners completed 5,681 Reach Out and Read well child visits and distributed 4,299 books to families. They also enrolled 578 children to receive books from the Imagination Library, which are mailed directly to the families’ homes. Local parents are learning how to hold books to best engage their children and help children follow the stories by pointing out illustrations or text.
With continued use of the books, the young children’s understanding of words, letters and sounds advance and a foundation is built for future reading skills. Porter-Leath’s Books from Birth program continues to find creative ways to help children and their families connect with each other and with literacy, building our community’s ability to raise strong readers.