Teeth First! Teeth First!

For National Children's Dental Health Month, let's Reach Out and Read!

Written by: Susanna Beckwith, Executive Director

February celebrations usually bring to mind Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, even school vacation! But this February, celebrating meant something different for the board and staff of Reach Out and Read Rhode Island (RORRI). This February, we are celebrating National Children’s Dental Month. 
RORRI is an evidence-based nonprofit organization that promotes early literacy and school readiness in pediatric exam rooms statewide by giving new books to children and advice to parents about the importance of reading aloud. We now serve close to 30,000 children and distribute over 50,000 books each year. 
Reach Out and Read has both the access and the opportunity to impact the lives of children at their most critical point in development - the first five years of life - and to set them on a path towards success in school. Did you know that nationwide nearly 90% of all young children visit their doctors at least annually? Because of our partnership with pediatricians and family physicians, our literacy program is afforded a higher degree of access to preschool age children than any other literacy program in existence. 
Why is an early literacy organization interested in early oral care? It makes perfect sense to us. The TeethFirst! RI initiative is spreading the word to parents and families about the importance of early dental visits. RORRI is spreading the word to parents and families about the importance of reading aloud. Same audience, different message. 
For our early literacy efforts, we rely on the health care provider to communicate with parents and families. Wouldn’t it be a great idea for the doctors and nurses to also encourage early dental visits?
This month, all 43 RORRI sites will receive a shipment of the title, “Going to the Dentist” to distribute to all patients 6 months through 5 years of age at their well child visits, along with the message about the importance of early oral care. 
Since the early years of our program, evidence has mounted attesting the effectiveness of our model and now we can refer to 16 studies that prove that Reach Out and Read can and DOES change outcomes for children. Here are just a few of the facts:
  • Parents served by Reach Out and Read are up to four times more likely to read aloud to their children.
  • During the preschool years, children served by Reach Out and Read score three to six months ahead of their non-Reach Out and Read peers on vocabulary tests. These early foundational language skills help start children on a path of success when they enter school.
  • Participating children enter kindergarten better prepared to succeed, with larger vocabularies and stronger language skills.
The RORRI team is grateful for our collaborators and community partners (like TeethFirst! RI, Rhode IslandKIDS COUNT and The RI Oral Health Commission) who share the desire to change health outcomes for the children in our state. And we are grateful to our physicians who are committed to treating the whole child. 
Happy National Children’s Dental Month!
TeethFirst! Creating healthy smiles for a lifetime.