Reach Out and Read of Greater New York (ROR GNY) reaches over 255,000 children ages birth to five every year since 1997 by providing early literacy training and resources to pediatricians, in NYC, Long Island, and the Greater Hudson Valley. “We serve disadvantaged children and their caregivers, providing them with access to early literacy that is so critical for a brighter future,” Emily Marchese, the Executive Director of ROR GNY, said.
As a part of the non-profit organization’s services, at each child’s doctor visit, medical providers offer tips and age-appropriate advice to parents about the importance of reading aloud with their children. ROR GNY also provides every child, from infancy to five years old, a new, developmentally appropriate book at each doctor’s visit. By the end of their program, each child has at least 10 books to build their home library and their caregivers have the tools to engage in reading out loud with their children on a regular basis. This service is offered free of charge at participating clinics.
Prior to the pandemic, families were also able to engage with ROR volunteers at pediatric waiting rooms by reading aloud to their children. It is imperative to meet families where they already are, like the pediatrician’s office. ROR GNY knows that parents and caregivers are constantly pulled in a million different directions. By bundling literacy support and services with well-child visits, ROR GNY aims to give parents and caregivers and their children free access to early literacy resources and children’s books without adding one more thing to their plate.
“Reading together promotes bonding and builds strong emotional connections. When children are cuddled in the lap of a loving caregiver, enjoying a book together, they feel secure, despite the turmoil in the outside world,” Marchese said.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has made it harder for some families to schedule in-person doctor appointments and medical providers are working tirelessly around the clock, ROR GNY developed new strategies to serve children and their families. ROR GNY partnered with the NYC Health + Hospitals Test and Trace Corps Resource Navigators to provide books to families who are waiting in line for a COVID-19 test. They also trained Resource Navigators on how to advise parents to build early literacy skills with their young children. Additionally, together with their partners at City’s First Readers, they are providing books and activities for the Test and Trace Corps Take Care kits, which are sent to anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 to ensure that children have educational activities to do at home while quarantined.
“We believe the ROR GNY mission remains powerful and important during these difficult times. It is in such times of anxiety when children most need to feel safe and loved – and one of the best ways to support and engage children is to read books together,” Marchese said. “The goal is to provide joyful, educational content in many formats to help our communities easily access resources.” Such educational content includes hosting Facebook Live read alouds in English and Spanish every weekday with guest authors and illustrators.
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All adults are also welcomed to join ROR GNY’s bilingual, free virtual workshops that teach them how to decompress, connect with other caregivers, use children’s books to discuss race and racism, learn how to create a literacy-friendly household for their children, and much more. For additional resources, ROR GNY compiled a list of free literary and educational enrichment which can be found on their frequently updated social media pages and are sent out to recipients on their mailing list. “Reading together regularly can provide a sense of routine that can help children and their caregiver manage during this uneasy time while schools and childcares are closed,” Marchese said.
To get involved, visit one of ROR GNY’s 233 program sites and donate by visiting reachoutandreadnyc.org/donate. For event updates and educational advice follow @ReachOutReadGNY on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
For any inquiries, please contact ROR GNY’s Program Director Kristen Rocha Aldrich at email@example.com Families can visit one of ROR’s national program sites in 49 other states as well.
Crystal Chunnu is an intern at Reach Out and Read of Greater New York.