Reach Out and Read’s Impact at the Holland Community Health Center

A guest blog written by Donna Lowry, MD, President and CEO of Ready for School, Holland, MI.


Starting with just one provider in 2010, Ready for School of Holland and Zeeland Michigan, believed that Reach Out and Read would support its community wide commitment to kindergarten readiness. It has done that and more!

The Holland Community Health Center (HCHC), which provides high quality care to children who are on Medicaid, is a different place then it was prior to starting Reach Out and Read. Bringing Reach Out and Read to the Clinic has transformed health care delivery. The respect and care for the whole child, the whole adult and the whole family is closely linked with bringing a literacy focus to the office.

IMG Susan Frost, Practice Manager, HCHC shares, “Reach Out and Read started us talking about reading with caregivers and children. It set off a chain reaction of change, so now from the waiting room to the exam room, we celebrate literacy. The Reach Out and Read library was expanded to a lending library for older children and adults. Our volunteer Reach Out and Read coordinator, Mary Bosscher (pictured), is in the waiting room reading to children, working on puzzles and “I spys”. She also has conversations with older children and adults. She gives book recommendations, talks about hobbies and connects people’s interests with reading. Reach Out and Read has been a big part of transforming the clinic culture.”

Since 2010 Ready for School has partnered with over 50 health care providers to navigate Reach Out and Read program guidelines and expectations as well as offering assistance for securing funding and coordination.

Multiple partner health care providers have indicated that the program has been a positive addition to their practice and experience for their patients. Beth Peter, MD, a family practitioner shares, “The Reach Out and Read program has been incredible for me as a doctor. Giving a book to an anxious, tired child during a check-up changes the whole atmosphere! It’s a way to remind everyone that we’re on the same team – a team to help each child get cozy, comfortable, and able to reach their full potential. It’s also great to know that the books we provide have a positive impact at home, too. Reading helps the bedtime routine, opens the mind to imaginative play, and strengthens the bond between caregiver and child.”

Reach Out and Read plays a vital role in our community wide multi-sector strategies for kindergarten readiness. Linking literacy and health and opening up conversation about child development and learning is crucial for kindergarten readiness. Transforming healthcare practice culture has been an incredible side effect!