Reach Out & Read and the H.E.L.P. Project

Reach Out & Read and the H.E.L.P. Project

Partnering with pediatricians to help families discover the joy of reading.

Reach Out and Read is a national, evidence-based initiative that promotes early literacy and school readiness by giving books to children at regular checkups starting at birth. Parents also receive advice from their nurse practitioner or doctor about the importance of having daily, meaningful, language-rich interactions with their children. Children of Bellevue’s Reach Out and Read was the first of its kind in New York and has distributed more than one quarter million books since its inception. With your help, we can continue creating positive social impact by helping families share stories, bond together and transform their lives by supporting parents in building the foundation for their children’s overall development through those positive interactions.

Children of Bellevue's Reach Out and Read: Changing Lives through Literacy from Children of Bellevue on Vimeo.



Trained volunteers transform clinic waiting rooms into literacy-rich areas where they engage children of all ages in reading activities and model for families the joys and techniques of reading aloud.


Doctors and nurse practitioners speak with parents in the exam room about the importance of talking, singing, reading and playing with their children every day. They offer age-appropriate tips and encouragement as well as a beautiful, brand-new, developmentally appropriate book to take home from birth to 5 years of age. Books are available in 6 languages and children in the program start school with a library of at least 13 books in their homes and the wonderful memories they have created with their parents by sharing those books together.


Our Parent Educators counsel parents in the waiting room by pointing out their child’s reaction to books being read, talking about the importance of language and early literacy, and giving advice about reading. These interactions set the stage for the doctor’s intervention. We also have the rare opportunity to reach parents of infants to help them understand the importance of looking at books with their babies before they can talk. Through the different layers of programming, they conduct in-depth developmental interventions while also referring parents to needed services within the hospital and in their own communities.


Children of Bellevue has expanded the program in pioneering ways to address and incorporate important related themes.

1. Dental Clinic

Books distributed by the Pediatric Dental Clinic focus on feeding and sleep issues to help parents prevent early childhood caries by replacing the milk bottle with reading a book as a bedtime routine. Books on healthy dental hygiene and positive messages about teeth, dental visits, and the tooth fairy are distributed as well. Ours is one of the few dedicated dental Reach Out and Read programs in the country.

2. Reach Out & Write

Our Reach Out and Write program encourages parents to make writing a natural and fun part of their interactions with their children by using designated writing tables while waiting to see their pediatrician. A “big kids” writing table and a toddler writing table are set up, and parents are encouraged to participate. Toddlers sit nearby and practice important prewriting skills.

3. Healthy Education & Literacy for Parents

Staff and specially trained volunteers work to meet the literacy needs of parents in the waiting room, by offering activities that provide strategies for improving their health as well as optimizing the health and development of their children. Special plain language, multilingual materials have been designed for the Health Education and Literacy for Parents (H.E.L.P.) Project.

4. Healthy Eating Initiative

The Healthy Eating Initiative supports existing obesity prevention activities in the clinic. Parent educators discuss healthy eating in addition to their regular language and early literacy counseling. Once a week, a Farmers Market Program in the clinic waiting room introduces families to the benefits of eating fresh, locally grown foods.

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If you are interested in becoming a volunteer reader, please contact Claudia Aristy at (212) 562-2540.

Volunteers read for a minimum of two hours per week during working hours.