A federal Medicaid program is providing just more than $3 million in funding for the state's early childhood program known as Reach Out and Read.
The program will be conducted by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services with matching funds.
DHHS said the reading initiative is one of the first in the country among state Medicaid programs.
The goal is improving literacy and language comprehension through participation from low-income children who would be eligible for Medicaid or the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program
Meanwhile, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said the program has proven in other states to have improved patient-clinician relationships and well-child visit attendance.
“Expanding Reach Out and Read recognizes that children’s healthy development and early literacy are intertwined," Dr. Mandy Cohen, the state's health secretary, said in a statement.
"This program meets families where they are and through people they trust."
Reach Out and Read partners with pediatric primary care locations to deliver training for medical providers, literacy tools for families, and to encourage healthy routines and relationships through shared stories.
In every well-visit, children and families receive a “prescription for reading” with developmentally appropriate books to help grow children’s home libraries.
The program encourages parents and guardians to read to children as early as infants.
The program is available in 90 of the state's 100 counties. The federal funding will help cover the remaining 10 counties, as well as enable the program to expand counties with limited participation to date.
Part of the funding will go toward helping providers perform research and further professional development.
For more information about Reach Out and Read Carolinas, go to www.rorcarolinas.org.
The initiative is part of the NC Early Childhood Action Plan that debuted in February 2019.
The plan provides a framework for measurably improving outcomes by 2025 for children from birth through age 8, "driving the state toward a vision where young children are healthier, safer and thriving."
For more information about the plan, go to ncdhhs.gov/early-childhood.