Objective.To assess the effectiveness of a clinic-based pediatric literacy intervention on a multilingual population.

Background.Clinic-based literacy interventions are effective among English- and Spanish-speaking children. No data exist for multilingual populations.

Setting.Pediatric clinic in an urban county hospital.

Design/Methods.Reading practices of 2 cross-sectional groups were assessed by standardized interview before and after the intervention. The intervention consisted of waiting-room volunteers reading to children, literacy counseling, and gift of a children’s book at each well-child visit from 6 months to 5 years. Outcomes were assessed separately for primary English-speaking and primary non-English-speaking families.

Results.The baseline (N=85) and postintervention (N=95) groups were similar with respect to child age and sex, parental education, and length of time in the United States. Fourteen languages were represented in total, the most common being English (41%), Somali (28%), Spanish (9%), Vietnamese (7%), Oromo (3%), and Tigrinyan (3%). Compared with baseline, postintervention respondents were more likely to report reading as a favorite activity for the child (10% vs 25%) and parent (18% vs 40%), to read to their child before bed at least weekly (45% vs 71%), and to possess over 10 children’s books at home (49% vs 63%). Among English-speaking families (N=30 baseline, N=40 postintervention), weekly bedtime reading increased (63% to 93%), reading as child’s favorite activity increased (7% vs 30%), and reading as the parent’s favorite activity to do with child increased (33% vs 58%). The proportion of English-speaking families possessing over 10 books at home and those reading with their children at least weekly showed no difference between the baseline and postintervention groups. Among non-English-speaking families (N=55 baseline, N=55 postintervention), weekly bedtime reading increased (36% vs 56%), reading as the parent’s favorite activity increased (11% vs 27%), and the number of families to possess >10 children’s books in the home increased (31% vs 49%). Reading as child’s favorite activity (13% vs 24%) and weekly book sharing (60% vs 76%) showed nonsignificant trends between the non-English-speaking baseline and postintervention groups.

Conclusions.This clinic-based literacy intervention influences home literacy behavior in this multiethnic setting, in both English-speaking and non-English-speaking families. Although efforts should be made to make such programs more appropriate for linguistic minorities, non-English-speaking families do stand to benefit from English-language-oriented programs. literacy, Reach Out and Read, pediatrics, reading, child development.

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