Reach Out and Read Campaign

Hillary Clinton launches Chicago citywide Reach Out and Read Campaign

April 28, 1998

First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton--joined by Irving B. Harris of the Harris Foundation; Robert Needlman, co-founder of Reach Out and Read; Josephine Minow, local children's book author and child advocate; Jim Flanigan, Chicago Bear; and pediatricians from area hospitals and clinics--launched the Chicago Citywide Reach Out and Read Literacy Program (ROR) on April 28, 1998, at 10:00 a.m. at the Friend Family Health Center, 800 E. 55th Street.

Mrs. Clinton and other VIPs kicked off the event with a news conference and spent time reading to children and their families. Mrs. Clinton gave a progress report on the first year of the Prescription for Reading Campaign, including an announcement of a new Scholastic Book initiative. A ROR training program for participating physicians, health professionals, and administrators was held at the Friend Center at 1:00 p.m. following Mrs. Clinton's visit.

Reach Out and Read is a national early literacy program centered in pediatric outpatient clinics and community-based health centers. During routine pediatric visits, doctors give children aged six months to five years a new book and talk to parents about the importance of reading for their child's healthy social, emotional and cognitive development. Serving as models for parents, volunteers read to the children in the waiting area before visits. Through ROR, every child starts kindergarten with a home library of at least 12 books. Additionally, through this practice, doctors can track a child's development using age and culturally appropriate books.

The Harris Foundation has spearheaded the effort to expand ROR to clinics across Chicago and surrounding communities. Since July of 1997, the Foundation has invested more than $150,000 in the program, expanding the number of ROR sites from three to 19. Doctors at these 19 sites will distribute more than 100,000 new books annually to at-risk children. Plans are underway to work with the City of Chicago and other funders to expand ROR to all Chicago Public Health Clinics and community-based health centers until all Chicago children can benefit from this program.

Irving Harris, chairman of the Harris Foundation, announced a new $100,000 Challenge grant to individuals, corporations and foundations in Chicago. He agreed to give an additional $100,000 by the year 2000 if partners in the community contribute $100,000 to the Chicago Citywide ROR.

Also joining the Chicago initiative were a number of local literacy organizations and institutions including the Chicago Public Libraries, the American Academy of Pediatrics, Chicago Children's Museum, Literacy Chicago, R.R. Donnelley & Company, and other local funders. Together in partnership with pediatricians, parents, educators, publishers, and volunteers, they will ensure that children have access to books and develop a love of reading.

The University of Chicago Friend Family Health Center kicked off the city's largest ROR program on April 28. The Health Center provides 18,500 well-child visits annually to children aged six months through five years. More than 66 percent of the Center's patients receive Medicaid or have no health insurance.

In addition to support from the Harris Foundation, the James Flanigan Foundation is a founding sponsor of the ROR program at the Friend Center. James M. Flanigan, Chicago Bear defensive tackle, will donate more than 5,000 books to the program over the next year.

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