Reach Out and Read is Feasible and Effective for Adolescent Mothers: A Pilot Study

Matern Child Health J. 2016 Mar;20(3):630-8. doi: 10.1007/s10995-015-1862-3.


Objectives: The Reach Out and Read program (ROaR) is associated with increased parent-child book reading and improved language development in children. Though children of adolescent parents may have an elevated risk of language delay, ROaR has never been specifically studied among adolescent-headed families. This pilot evaluated the feasibility and effectiveness of ROaR among adolescent mothers and their children.

Methods: This randomized controlled pilot followed thirty adolescent mothers with children aged 6-20 months in a teen-tot clinic in downtown Toronto. At each of three consecutive well child checkups, intervention families received a new children's book, reading-related anticipatory guidance customized to the mother's developmental stage, counselling from a librarian, and a public library card. Control families received routine care. At baseline and study completion, all mothers completed a survey on family reading patterns and the Beck Depression Inventory-Revised (BDI-IA).

Results: Though regression models were not statistically significant, bivariate analyses at study completion revealed that intervention mothers were significantly more likely than controls to report reading as one of the child's favorite activities (29 vs 0 %) and had significantly lower maternal depression scores (7.0 vs 12.5; ≥10 = clinically significant depression). Trends for all other variables, including time spent reading together and maternal enjoyment of reading, were also in the direction of benefit. This program was implemented at minimal cost and adopted permanently following study completion.

Conclusions: This feasible and developmentally appropriate intervention shows promise in promoting shared book reading and reducing maternal depression within adolescent-headed families, warranting investigation with larger trials.

Keywords: Child development; Literacy programs; Pregnancy in adolescence; Primary prevention; Reach Out and Read.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Canada
  • Depression
  • Education*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Language Development*
  • Male
  • Mother-Child Relations*
  • Mothers*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Program Evaluation
  • Reading*
  • Young Adult