Reach Out and Read-Alabama

The youngest patients of University Medical Center’s (UMC) Family Medicine and Pediatrics clinics are now prescribed books at well-child visits, thanks to UMC’s participation in Reach Out and Read-Alabama, a program of the Alabama Chapter-American Academy of Pediatrics. Reach Out and Read-Alabama gives young children a foundation for success by incorporating books into pediatric care and encouraging families to read aloud together.

UMC in Tuscaloosa is the first of our clinics to roll out the Reach Out and Read program. UMC-Northport and UMC-Demopolis plan to implement Reach Out and Read during the coming years.

In the exam rooms pediatricians, family medicine physicians and nurses incorporate Reach Out and Read’s evidence-based, three-part model into routine well-child visits:

Reach Out and Read Alabama Logo
  1. Our trained doctors and nurses speak with parents about the importance of reading aloud to their children.
  2. At each well-child visit from 6 months to 5 years of age, the child will receive a new book to take home, with special emphasis on children growing up in low-income communities.
  3. Families become more engaged and read together more often.

doctor reading to child

The Need

A quarter of children in Alabama live in poverty. On average, two-thirds of low-income families cannot provide books for their children. Of the children cared for at UMC locations, more than 67%, fall below the federal poverty line. Research has shown that without access to books in their homes, children are less prepared for school and score lower on letter recognition, counting and writing when compared to their peers who have access to books early in life. In addition, patients with lower literacy skills face challenges following their doctor’s advice and are less likely to have the knowledge needed to make decisions that are positive for their health. Providing opportunities for early reading is a step toward a healthier life.

The 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress scores showed Alabama at or near the bottom for 4th and 8th grade reading scores nationwide. These scores have continued to significantly decrease since 2013.

Our Mission

By building on the unique relationship between parents and medical providers, we believe that UMC’s Reach Out and Read program will make a vital impact helping parents understand the fundamentals of early brain development and demonstrating the power of reading to their children. Our mission is to provide an opportunity for low-income children in West Alabama to receive books from their health care provider, and for every parent to receive encouragement to read to their child every day.

For many of our families at UMC, this may be the only chance for their children to have access to books. At the end of the program, every Reach Out and Read child has a home library of books—each given with advice to families that they are their child’s first and most important teacher.

Help Support Our Mission

University Medical Center’s Reach Out and Read Program relies solely on donations and support from individuals and our community to maintain and expand this valuable program. Here’s how you can help support Reach Out and Reach at UMC:

For more information, please contact the program coordinator Casey Ard at or call 205-348-1304.

provider show book to child while mother looks on