• March 2, 2021
 Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso, National Reach Out and Read Program team up to improve literacy of young patients

A Book is Provided to Every Patient Under 5 During Well-Child Visits at Pediatric Clinics | Photo courtesy TTPEP

Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso, National Reach Out and Read Program team up to improve literacy of young patients

A passion for reading starts by cracking open that first book. That’s why Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso’s Department of Pediatrics is on the same page with the national nonprofit, Reach Out and Read.

Both the TTP El Paso at Albert and TTP El Paso at Transmountain pediatric clinics are part of the national Reach Out and Read program. Membership allows the clinics to purchase children’s books at a discount from Scholastic and All About Books. The clinics distribute the books during every well-child visit for patients 6 months to 5 years old. Parents are shown by the doctor how the age-appropriate books can improve the cognitive development of the young patients.

The program at TTP El Paso at Alberta, located at 4801 Alberta Avenue, was started in 2002 by Blanca Garcia, M.D., pediatrics specialist. The program is designed specifically for families who may not have the means to focus on literacy.

Dr. Garcia estimates that about 100 books are given out each month at the Alberta clinic.

“It’s not a prize, like a sticker you get at the end of the visit. It’s a tool we use to help assess the child’s development and to give guidance to our parents,” Dr. Garcia said. “It’s nice to show parents that their babies are interested in the book. We have them look at the book, point to a picture, or for the older patients, we ask them to identify things in the book.”

Leslie Cortes, M.D., pediatrics specialist, was once a resident at TTP El Paso at Alberta. Inspired by the success of Dr. Garcia’s program, Dr. Cortes decided in 2018 to bring the Reach Out and Read program to the Transmountain location so patients at both pediatric clinics could be served and encouraged with the program. Another motivating factor is there are only four libraries in the area to serve more than 112,000 people, and one library is on a college campus and not  designed for young readers. Since the program began, they have given out close to 800 books.

“I got inspired by what Dr. Garcia started when I saw how the kids were excited by the books. Whenever they came to the clinic, they and their families would go straight to the books,” Dr. Cortes said.

The books come at a discount thanks to Reach Out and Read, but both clinics are still responsible for purchasing them. Both the Alberta and Transmountain clinics have received donations and grants from the community before but not enough to support the ever-growing population of patients that would be well served with the books.

“We’re providing a foundation for kids to develop a love of reading, and that starts at an early age,” Dr. Cortes said. “The program is working with big companies that provide books, like Scholastic and All About Books, to get a discount. When we purchase books from them, since we are in the Reach Out and Read program, we get a great price break.”

In addition to working at their pediatric clinics, Dr. Cortes and Dr. Garcia are among the physicians who make up TTP El Paso, and each hold a faculty position at the Foster School of Medicine, where they are teaching the next generation of doctors.

“Perhaps the students they mentor and teach will be inspired to adopt programs, such as Reach Out and Read, that better serve our community just as Dr. Garcia did when she inspired Dr. Cortes while she trained as a pediatric resident,” officials concluded.

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