Reach Out and Read – Milwaukee (ROR-M)

Reach Out and Read – Milwaukee (ROR-M) Children’s earliest literacy begins at home with their families. The links between literacy and poverty are well documented. Reach Out and Read is a national program that improves language development in children. The goal of ROR-M is to assess and improve literacy development including health literacy in urban populations.

In partnership with Midtown Clinic (MTC), ROR-M developed a protocol: Is the Message Getting Through? to accomplish the following objectives:

  1. Assess early literary resources within zip codes of existing MTC patient population
  2. Evaluate readability level of MTC patient education materials
  3. Administer Short Test of Functional Health Literacy in Adults (STOFHLA)/ and After Books Reading Survey (BABAR) to assess health literacy, parental attitudes and practices regarding reading with children
  4. Obtain parent opinions about book selection for ROR-M


  • Identified that 79% of patients come from 10 zip codes. Overall, there were 13 (Range 0-5/zip code) early literacy resources identified in those 10 zip codes.
  • Over half (68%) of patient educational material was recorded as 7th grade and higher (Range 7th-17th).
  • Reading books was one of their favorite activities (69%) and part of their bedtime routine (50%).
  • Three quarters (75%) had more than 11 books in their home and 63% possessed library cards.
  • Health literacy levels by determining parents’ ability to comprehend basic medical concepts and what they must do in order to stay healthy. Parents had either an Adequate Reading Level (92%) or Marginal Reading Level (8%).
  • Most (88%) parents bought books for their children in addition to the ROR-M books that they received at their doctor’s appointment.
  • Parents (63%) expressed a preferred for books with words & pictures that have a moral lesson.
  • Half of the parents allowed their child to choose their own books.

Limitations of this study is that convenience sampling results in self-selection of parents to be assessed that might have higher literacy levels and under representation of families at greatest risk for literacy challenges.

Contact Us

Center for the Advancement of Underserved Children
Department of Pediatrics
Medical College of Wisconsin
8701 Watertown Plank Rd.
Milwaukee, WI 53226

Teri Wermager, Administrative Assistant III
(414) 955-4177
(414) 955-6385 (fax)