El Paso, Texas (KTSM) — Reach Out and Read, a national nonprofit, understands the importance of instilling a passion for reading at a young age.

That’s why Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso’s Department of Pediatrics has partnered with the Reach Out and Read program to provide a book to every patient under 5 years of age during well-child visits at the pediatric clinic.

Both the Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso at Alberta and Transmountain pediatric clinics are part of the national Reach Out and Read program.

Being part of the program means the clinics purchase children’s books at a discount from Scholastic and All About Books. The clinics then distribute the books during every well-child visit for patients 6 months to 5 years old.

Books are distributed because they can help improve a child’s cognitive development, said Dr. Blanca Garcia, a pediatrics specialist at Texas Tech.

“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,” said Garcia. “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.”

Garcia started the program at the Alberta clinic, located at 4801 Alberta Ave., in 2002 to help families who may not have the means to focus on literacy.

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

Inspired by Garcia’s success, Dr. Leslie Cortes, a pediatrics specialist at the Transmountain location, decided in 2018 to bring the Reach Out and Read program to the second location so patients at both pediatric clinics could be served by the program.

Cortes said 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,” Cortes said. “Whenever they came to the clinic, they and their families would go straight to the books.”

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