Their effort is currently included in the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act, boosting its chances of being signed into law later this year.
On Thursday, Representatives Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) and Peter Meijer (R-MI) introduced their bipartisan CLIMB Act to permanently authorize the popular programs on military installations and at military treatment facilities (MTF) that help improve childhood literacy in military families. Originally authorized as a five-year pilot program in the FY06 NDAA, this successful program provides age-appropriate books to children during their wellness checks ages 0-5 (twice a year). Rep. French Hill (R-AR) is also an original co-lead of the CLIMB Act.
“A lesson I will never forget from my father, a WWII refugee, is that the one thing that can’t be taken away from you is your education,” said Houlahan. “Growing up as a Navy dependent and then serving myself in the Air Force, I know firsthand the unique pressures military families experience in educating their children. I also spent many years as an educator and leader of a literacy-focused non-profit, so I know early childhood literacy is the key to success. We must invest wisely in our military families and their children. We ask so much of our men and women in uniform; we owe it to them to consistently deliver on our promise to support them by ensuring their children are developing the literacy skills they need to set them up for success down the road.”
“The young children of our active duty servicemembers deserve access to the best and most comprehensive care,” said Rep. Meijer. “We have seen the tremendous health benefits of early literacy promotion throughout our communities, and I am proud to join this bipartisan effort to provide these resources for children who are receiving their primary care at military facilities.”
By ensuring children are exposed to the value of reading and books from a young age, this legislation will deliver on America’s promise to not only take care of service members but also their families.
This bipartisan effort is supported by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), which has integrated Reach Out and Read into well-visits for over 25 years.
“We are delighted that Representatives Houlahan and Meijer are introducing bipartisan legislation that promotes early literacy in primary care for families on military installations,” said Trude Haecker, MD, FAAP, Medical Director for Reach Out and Read at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “This will make a huge difference in the lives of infants and toddlers during their most formative years. As a pediatrician, one of my goals is to develop a love of books and reading within the entire family. Research shows that reading aloud to babies and young children helps promote brain development, which can then lead to earlier language acquisition skills, higher literacy, and better reading comprehension once the child goes to school.”
The Reach Out and Read national network reaches approximately 4.2 million children through primary care visits across the country. This includes military bases in 26 states and at Aviano Air Force Base.
“The families of our nation’s armed services members face unique challenges, including the substantial stress of adjusting to frequent moves and deployments, coping with trauma and other pressures that can have enduring consequences on social and emotional health and development,” said Reach Out and Read CEO, Marty Martinez. “Today we welcome the introduction of the bipartisan CLIMB Act of 2022, designed to help reduce the stress and build resilience by integrating early literacy promotion into routine well-child check-ups, delivering a standard of care consistent throughout all military treatment facilities that serve children. Thanks to Rep. Houlahan’s leadership and commitment, all young children, beginning at birth through age 5, who receive care on military installations will have the opportunity to benefit from an evidence-backed model offered by medical practitioners trained to provide new, age- appropriate books and support to caregivers in establishing shared reading as a part of the daily routine.”
In January, Houlahan also directly appealed to Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, to include funding for the Reach Out and Read program in DoD’s FY23 Presidential Budget request.
This is Houlahan’s 32nd bipartisan bill she has led or co-led this Congress. Read the full text of the bill here.