Wells Foundation gift promotes literacy, enhances development for young patients

September 29, 2021

The Franklin H. and Ruth L. Wells Foundation has committed $100,000 to enhance the Reach Out and Read Program, an initiative of Penn State Health Children’s Hospital Academic General Pediatrics. The foundation’s gift will provide books for approximately 9,000 children that benefit from the program annually.

September is National Literacy Month, and Reach Out and Read makes literacy promotion a standard part of pediatric primary care. Through the program, trained doctors and nurses speak with parents and guardians about the importance of reading aloud to their children, starting in infancy and continuing throughout childhood. At each regular checkup, pediatricians and nurses give every child between the ages of six months and five years old a new, developmentally appropriate children's book to keep.

“This generous gift from the Wells Foundation will be instrumental in giving young children in central Pennsylvania a foundation for success by fostering a literature-rich environment,” said Dr. Heidi Erdman, pediatrician and director of the Penn State Health Children’s Hospital Reach Out and Read Program. “With the support of passionate advocates like the Wells Foundation, we will continue promoting literacy and brain development, as our care teams join with parents and guardians to enrich the lives of thousands of children each year. We are incredibly grateful for their partnership in this work.”

Program participants have expressed their gratitude for this valuable resource. One parent said, “My kids love the books they receive at their well visit[s] and are always excited when they get to bring them home. It gives us a chance as a family to sit down and read books, talk about the stories, learn things from the photos and spend time together.”

Thanks to previous support from the Wells Foundation, pediatricians and other health care providers in Academic General Pediatrics began distributing books at one practice site in 2017. Today, the division’s affiliation with Reach Out and Read has expanded to all four academic general pediatric clinical sites.

About Reach Out and Read

Reach Out and Read is a 501(c)3 organization that gives young children a foundation for success by incorporating books into pediatric care and encouraging families to read aloud together. It is the only national pediatric literacy model endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Reach Out and Read is a nationwide nonprofit program started in 1989 that helps pediatricians and other health care providers promote childhood literacy by incorporating books into pediatric health care. The program has a special focus on helping economically disadvantaged children, who unfortunately have been shown in research to hear 3 million fewer words than their peers by three years of age. To combat this disparity, Reach Out and Read provides a book during all well child visits for patients between six months and five years of age. Additionally, many books obtained through Reach Out and Read are bilingual, and some are available in up to 26 different languages.

About "A Greater Penn State" Campaign

The Franklin H. and Ruth L. Wells Foundation’s gift to support Penn State Health Children’s Hospital Academic General Pediatrics’ Reach Out and Read Program will advance "A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence," a focused campaign that seeks to elevate Penn State’s position as a leading public university in a world defined by rapid change and global connections. With the support of alumni and friends, “A Greater Penn State” seeks to fulfill the three key imperatives of a 21st-century public university: keeping the doors to higher education open to hardworking students regardless of financial well-being; creating transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impacting the world by serving communities and fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” visit greaterpennstate.psu.edu.

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Last Updated September 29, 2021