20 Years. 1 Million Books. Countless Smiles.

Published on in Philanthropy Report

Imagine a child growing up without books in his or her home. You might conjure up an image of a remote village in an underdeveloped country, but many households in the United States don’t have a single children’s book.

For two decades, the Reach Out and Read program at Children’s Hospital has been committed to rewriting that story. Reach Out and Read is a national program launched in 1989 that gives young children growing up in low-income communities a foundation for success by incorporating books into pediatric care and encouraging families to read aloud together.

doctor and mother reading to infant CHOP’s Reach Out and Read started in 1996 and operates in 10 of its 30 CHOP Care Network primary care practices throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Pediatricians and nurse practitioners at these practices give children ages 6 months to 5 years a brand-new age-appropriate book at each well visit and encourage parents to read aloud to their children. Families served by the program read together more often, and their children enter kindergarten with larger vocabularies and stronger language skills, better prepared to fulfill their potential.

Ashton, a 3-year-old girl who loves to read, recently received the program’s one-millionth book at a well visit. It was a major milestone, made possible by the passionate efforts of clinicians, volunteers, parents and donors.

Two of those passionate donors are David and Margie Rosenberg, who have supported Children’s Hospital for 30 years. When they made their first gift to Reach Out and Read in 2003, the program was in place at only four CHOP Care Network sites. The Rosenbergs’ ongoing support has been instrumental in the program’s expansion, bringing books to more children than ever. To honor their years of generosity, the reading room in CHOP’s Nicholas and Athena Karabots Pediatric Care Center is named the Marjorie and David Rosenberg Reading Room.

“When I was introduced to the program I was very taken by the dedication of the CHOP pediatricians and nurse practitioners who assist the underserved children of our community with their reading challenges and lack of books,” says David, who is a member of CHOP’s Foundation Board of Overseers, serves as chair of the Community Advisory Committee, and is also a volunteer reader at CHOP Care Network Primary Care, Cobbs Creek. The Rosenbergs raised three children who grew up surrounded by shelves of books. David says he thought Reach Out and Read would be a great opportunity for his kids to pay it forward to those less fortunate.

“I believe education is the key to success and illiteracy is a systemic problem,” he says. “This program is really a stepping stone that encourages a love of books in an effort to stem that tide of illiteracy. You don’t need to give a lot to this program to have a big impact. A $1,000 contribution goes a long way. And the dollars we spend to encourage reading today can have a life-changing impact on a child’s tomorrow.”