Leyendo Juntos (Reach Out & Read)Literacy is essential to healthy and economically viable communities
Modeled after the Reach Out and Read program in the USA, Leyendo Juntos aims to promote the love of reading, the love of books, and the number and quality of words that infants and young preschool-age children are exposed to in these formative years. New, age-appropriate books are given to every baby and child at his/her vaccination days and parents receive encouragement and information about the importance of looking at books and reading aloud to young children.
Leyendo Juntos came about in 2013 when Village Health Promoters from 15 communities came together to learn about the importance of exposing babies and children to words. There is a large amount of research that shows children as young as six months begin to identify phonetic sounds, and associations with reading and positive feelings/bonding when being read to. Each VHP received training in Best Practices and received 100 books to start the program in their communities.
Mothers bring their babies, toddlers, and preschool-aged children to the Village Health Promoter on vaccination days, taking advantage of the established vaccination schedule. Books are given at 6, 9 12,15, 18, 24, and 30 months, 3, 4, and 5 years old. The VHP gives advice and encouragement to the mothers, even if they do not know how to read. Looking at books together, pointing to things and naming them, making up stories in their own language–all of these techniques achieve the same objective of exposing the child to words. There is a direct relation between the number of words a child knows when he/she starts school and that child’s future success in school and in life.
Village kindergarten teachers reported that there was a marked difference in the first group of children who had received the benefits of Leyendo Juntos since they were infants. They said that these children were much better prepared to start school than any class had been prior to that. It was evident that they were used to being around books, loved hearing stories and thrived on story time, and made a much smoother transition to school.
Plans For The Future
We hope this project will continue to grow and thrive. Early childhood education is often overlooked in developing countries, and this program has sparked interest in books and reading in general because of how the children have responded to it. Before Leyendo Juntos, children had no books at home, and the opportunity to read to them during those formative years was missed. Now the positive effects of books are lifelong and carry over into all aspects of a child’s life.