A shy young boy came in to the Children’s Health Center at San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center for his regular check-up. He knew that, thanks to the Center’s partnership with Reach Out and Read (ROAR), he would get to go home with a brand new book. He leaned over to Dr. Eleanor Chung and whispered, “do you have any books about volcanoes?” He was unlucky that day, but he was back a few weeks later when his older brother was scheduled for his check-up. “We had just received a new shipment of books, and one of them was about volcanoes. I don’t know who was more excited,” smiles Dr. Chung. “Me or the boy.”

Books and funding provided by community partners like Target, Storm8, Union Bank and ROAR make it possible for The General to distribute books to each child who visits the Children’s Health Center. Roughly 80% of patients and their families live below 200% of the federal poverty line, and parents often cannot afford to buy books to read to their children.

In the United States, less than half of all parents read daily to their children. Children who grow up in poverty, like those served by the Children’s Health Center at San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center (The General), are even less likely to be read to. According to Kaitlyn Bailey, MD, a third year pediatrics residentat The General, this means that many of the children cared for at The General are exposed to 70% fewer words than other children, putting them as serious disadvantage when they enter school.

This gap makes it critical to create opportunities for reading and language development for these children, and Target has stepped up to the plate. In 2013, Target generously supported the Foundation with a $10,000 grant that provided 2,550 new books that can be distributed to pediatric patients during each visit. “The grant is part of Target’s ongoing efforts to build strong, safe and healthy communities across the country,” explains Tiffani Mah, Target Store Team Leader.

“Eyes light up and parents smile when the books appear,” shares Naomi Bardach, MD, attending physician in the pediatric department.

Victoria Keeton, a nurse practitioner in the clinic, is thrilled to have another tool to improve patient care. “One of my favorite parts of having the ROAR program available in our clinic is the important role it plays in the assessment and promotion of development for our patients.  By handing the child a book at the start of the visit, I can immediately learn so much about their development status – from fine motor skills in how they handle the book, to communication skills in the way he or she points to and names things on each page.  It also offers us an easy way to talk with families about the importance of reading and books for developmental progress, while providing parents with a tangible tool they can begin using the minute they leave the clinic to advance their child’s development”, explains Victoria.

The Children’s Health Center services 10,500 patients per year, 8,500 of which are seen for primary care and directly benefit from these programs. Because of the patient volume and popularity of the program, donations of new or gently used children’s books are most welcome.  Board books, picture books, and books in a variety of languages including Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean, Arabic and Tagalog are especially needed.  Cash donations are also greatly appreciated to supplement the program needs.  If you are interested in making a donation, please email [email protected] or visit https://sfghf.org/support-us/donate/. This support goes a long way in improving a child’s future.