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Boston Children’s Hospital partners with Reach Out and Read to make early literacy promotion an important part of the primary care we offer our families. Using this simple but effective program, we give parents and caregivers the tools and encouragement they need to read with their children and engage in other language-rich activities every day. Together, we set young children on the path to bright, healthy futures.

More than 80 percent of a child’s brain is formed during their first three years, and what they experience during this window affects how their brain develops. Attention and nurturing from a loving parent or caregiver supports healthy brain development — and one of the best ways to engage young children is to read books together. Children that are read to have improved language and listening skills, experience stronger emotional connections to their loved ones, and are better able to manage moments of anxiety and stress.

Why early literacy is crucial

Language-rich interactions, like reading and singing with trusted adults, help children to develop communication skills, patience, and empathy, as well as literacy. All of these are critical to their readiness to begin school. Even the simple act of handling books helps to develop school readiness in infants. Other positive effects of reading together include:

  • better recognition of sounds and letters
  • knowledge of a wider range of vocabulary
  • increased listening skills
  • a deeper understanding of how stories work

Reading with children is a wonderful way to provide them with “mirrors and windows,” opportunities to see themselves reflected in stories and learn about other people and their experiences. Diverse books with a rich assortment of main characters and books set in cultures that are different from their own enhance children’s understanding of the world and their place in it.

How it works

At routine visits from infancy through 5 years of age, doctors and nurse practitioners:

  • Give the child a new, developmentally appropriate book. We try to provide books in the language the family speaks at home; we have a range of different languages, including English, French, Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, Portuguese, and Somali.
  • Talk with parents and caregivers about the benefits of reading aloud with their young children and show them how to look at books and talk about the stories at each developmental stage. 
  • Encourage parents and caregivers to cuddle up, read together at home, and build routines around books.
  • Use the book to see how the child is developing.

About Reach Out and Read

Reach Out and Read is the only national pediatric literacy model endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the only national early literacy organization that partners directly with pediatric providers. Since 1989, Reach Out and Read has grown from a single program in Boston to 6,100 program sites in 50 states. The program distributes 6.4 million books in 26 different languages to children and families each year. (Learn more at this link.)

The Boston Children’s Hospital Primary Care Center cares for more than 22,000 patients in our practice. In 2021, we had more than 5,000 well-child visits for children 6 months to 5 years where children received books as part of the Reach Out and Read Program.

Donation information

We love to accept donations! We accept new book donations and monetary donations. We also accept gently used books to give out to children that do not fall into the Reach Out and Read supported age range, such as children 6 and older.

Based on Reach Out and Read donation guidelines, we accept books that have positive messages. It is a priority that program books reflect the widest possible representation of the children and families we serve, with stories that are relevant and engaging; accurately reflect and affirm a diverse range of identities, cultures, and histories; and contain illustrations that are colorful and recognizable to young children. Reach Out and Read Programs do not distribute books that have commercial/media tie-ins, contain stereotypes, or touch on subjects such as death and religion.

  • To make a monetary donation, please contact the Boston Children’s Trust at 617-355-6890.
  • To make a book donation, email our program at ChildrensPrimaryCareROR@childrens.harvard.edu.
  • Book donations can be sent directly to
    Boston Children’s Hospital Primary Care Center
    Attention: Reach Out and Read Program
    300 Longwood Avenue
    Boston, MA 02115

Donations to the Boston Children’s Reach Out and Read Program are tax deductible. 

Our staff