Save Reach Out and Read!
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Dear Governor Baker,
As a family physician, children's book author, and lifelong Massachusetts resident, I am very saddened and disappointed by the recent budget cuts leading to the defunding of Reach Out and Reach in my home state. Per a recent Boston Globe article by Bella English, upwards of 200,000 children per year are touched by this wonderful program in Massachusetts alone. It affects children in low-income communities from my hometown of Fall River, MA to my current place of work in Malden, MA. Children from every corner of our state are being affected by this decision.
I currently work at Malden Family Medicine Center in Malden, MA. Our clinic sees thousands of pediatric patients and utilizes the Reach Out and Read program to its fullest extent. It is not uncommon for the parents of one of my pediatric patients to tell me that the only children's books in their home are from us. The books in our health center originate almost exclusively from the Reach Out and Read program. We use them to guide our well child visits, often gaining a great deal of insight about our patients' wellbeing and development while watching them marvel over their brand new copy of "Goodnight Moon."
Two years ago, while practicing medicine in Dorchester, MA, I conducted a home literacy survey and discovered that nearly 40% of our pediatric patients under age 6 had fewer than 10 books at home. The defunding of Reach Out and Read will all but ensure that this number worsens with time. Reach Out and Read impressively reaches nearly 5 million families nationwide. We cannot let the Massachusetts chapter of this program go. After all, the program originated at our very own Boston City Hospital (now Boston Medical Center) in 1989!
The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) widely regards reading as an integral part of a child's development. Providing books to our patients at every well child check demonstrates that reading is just as important as routine physical examinations and vaccinations. As you know, a child's proficiency in reading is correlated with future academic success and has long-term social and economic implications. Literacy rates are a stronger predictor of a population's health than age, income, race, and employment status. I urge you to please reconsider the defunding of this exceptional program.
Kevin R. Gendreau, MD
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