Via the Baltimore Sun's website comes word of another great idea about getting books into the hands of young readers. That city's health commissioner, Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, asked Baltimore doctors who work primarily with low income families to participate in a national program called "Reach Out and Read."
About a third of the 72 pediatric practices were already participating, sending each child between the ages of 6 months to five years old away with a book after each checkup, a total of 37,000 books a year.Although this program is over ten years old, this is the first time that I've run across it. I'm not a fan of big government by any stretch of the imagination but I wouldn't mind at all seeing some of my tax dollars spent on books for those children who would otherwise not likely have books in their homes. And, at $2.75 per copy, I don't see it as something that most doctors couldn't afford to do out of their own pockets for their low income patients. Go, Baltimore!
Yesterday, Sharfstein announced that 20 more practices have met his challenge, making Baltimore the city with the fastest program expansion rate in the country and putting 18,514 more books into circulation. Another four city practices -- meaning 4,640 more books -- are about to sign on.
Dr. Barry Zuckerman, the Reach Out and Read director and chief of pediatrics at Boston Medical Center, has marketed his program to individual practices since it began more than a decade ago. The program is at 32,000 sites.
But never has a city decided to use its power to persuade doctors to sign on.
"We're in all 50 states," Zuckerman said. "But Baltimore is the first one that said, "OK, if half the children are benefiting from this, we want to spread this so the other half can benefit, too."