Independents Asked to Help Pass the Book

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Reach Out and Read (ROR), the 16-year-old national pediatric literacy organization, has been putting millions of books into the hands, strollers, and even mouths, of babies and preschool children to help make reading a part of every healthy childhood. Now, the organization is asking independent booksellers to educate their customers about Pass the Book, a new ROR initiative to raise $3 million from individuals who love reading that will be used to provide new, culturally and age-appropriate books for more than two million children growing up in poverty.

According to Kit Blundo, ROR's manager of individual giving, Pass the Book will distribute books at 2,500 locations around the country to children during their 10 well-child visits from ages six months to five years. During the visits, pediatricians will also offer advice to parents about the importance of reading aloud to their children.

The initiative encourages booksellers to target members of book clubs. According to Blundo, telling book clubs about Pass the Book is "preaching to the choir. Folks to whom books are really important know that many of their happiest times as children were when they were read to." Book club members will be encouraged to consider Pass the Book for holiday philanthropic projects; participants will be given book plates to personalize to establish a clear link with the recipients of the books.

Blundo explained to BTW that the ROR program is an "inexpensive intervention -- it costs about $27.50 for a child's library of 10 new books, and it makes use of the existing environment [in health care facilities, waiting rooms]. Volunteers read to children at the sites and simultaneously model behaviors to the parents. The vast majority of pediatricians have received ROR training during their residencies, and they can talk about reading during immunizations -- offering a distraction to the child. Children leave with a book and the parents receive some counseling. Research has shown that the only behavior to correlate significantly with reading scores is the number of books in the home. It is far less expensive to offer books through ROR, than it is to provide remedial services after the child has begun school."

Publishers make the books available to ROR at deeply discounted rates, and Blundo said, donated books are used at program sites for siblings, friends, and parents.

Booksellers with Book Sense should look for a flier about Pass the Book in the September Red Box mailing. --Nomi Schwartz