Doctors Prescribe Reading to Young Children

Funded by the Edward Bangs Kelley and Elza Kelley Foundation

When pediatric medical providers at Seaside Pediatrics enter an exam room, they bring more than their stethoscopes--they also carry colorful, new children's books, such as If You Give a Mouse a Cookie or Baby Faces. If the patient is a 1-year-old, they might assess whether the child can grasp the book and turn pages. With a 3-year-old, they may ask, "Can you point to the circle?" or "What color is the grass?" They share the same question with all parents of young children: "Is reading aloud part of your daily family routine?" During the checkup, providers also give parents research-based strategies for nurturing children's early literacy skills. At the end of the visit, the doctors put away their medical tools, but the book stays with the patient, becoming part of his or her home library. This process occurs because Seaside Pediatrics is part of Reach Out and Read, an evidence-based, national early literacy organization serving 205,000 children and families in Massachusetts through 295 clinical locations.

Reach Out and Read is able to continue their work in Barnstable County thanks, in part, to a generous grant of $7,500 from the Edward Bangs Kelley and Elza Kelley Foundation.  With this donation, the Foundation will help provide critical program support during the current fiscal year, including new, developmentally-appropriate books and early literacy guidance during regular pediatric checkups, to the 4,400 children and families served by Reach Out and Read’s 14 programs in Barnstable County.

“We are so incredibly thankful for the support of the Edward Bangs Kelley and Elza Kelley Foundation at this critical time,” said Reach Out and Read Director of Development for Connecticut and Massachusetts, Christine Garber.  “With the loss of our $1 million state funding due to the 9C reductions in December, we are looking for private funds to enable us to continue our critical work.  We are thrilled to have this new partnership with the Edward Bangs Kelley and Elza Kelley Foundation.”

Embedded within the existing healthcare system, Reach Out and Read’s model includes providing a new, age-appropriate book for each child to take home at every well-child visit from 6 months through 5 years. Along with the free book for every child, medical providers offer guidance to parents about the importance of reading aloud with their children every day starting at the newborn visit.   With medical providers delivering the program, Reach Out and Read is uniquely positioned to reach nearly all children and their parents as they visit their doctor. The organization focuses on children growing up in low-income families as research shows they are at the highest risk for reading failure.

Over 1,600 Reach Out and Read doctors and nurses distribute more than 350,000 new books to 205,000 children and their families annually in Massachusetts, through 295 clinical locations.  Nationally, the organization distributes 6.5 million new books to nearly 4.6 million children and their families annually, including 1 in 5 low-income families in the U.S.

“Research shows that if you intervene in the first five years of life and partner with parents, you can dramatically improve the early literacy skills of a child, putting them on the track for success in school and in life. Childhood development experts tell us that the most important thing that parents can do to give their children a foundation for success is to read aloud to them every day, “ Garber continued.  “We hope to find additional private support so our 1,600 partner medical providers can continue to provide our evidence-based intervention, which the American Academy of Pediatrics calls “essential” to all children under the age of 5.”



The Reach Out and Read model is endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the program has one of the strongest records of research support of any primary care intervention. Families served by Reach Out and Read read together more often, and their children enter kindergarten with larger vocabularies and stronger language skills, better

prepared to achieve their full potential.  For more information on Reach Out and Read in Massachusetts, to get involved, or to make a tax-deductible donation, visit their website at  


The Edward Bangs Kelley and Elza Kelley Foundation is a leader in fostering the means for improving the quality of life for the residents of Cape Cod. Their grants are highly diversified, often innovative, and reach into almost every aspect of life on the Cape. Along with substantial grants to support the Cape Cod Healthcare Foundations, grants have been made to a variety of other health, social, service, and cultural organizations. welcomes thoughtful comments and the varied opinions of our readers. We are in no way obligated to post or allow comments that our moderators deem inappropriate. We reserve the right to delete comments we perceive as profane, vulgar, threatening, offensive, racially-biased, homophobic, slanderous, hateful or just plain rude. Commenters may not attack or insult other commenters, readers or writers. Commenters who persist in posting inappropriate comments will be banned from commenting on