Children's Literacy Program: Book Programs

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Books for Babies

Children's Literacy Books for Babies Graphic

We deliver the book Peek-a-boo! to every baby born at HCMC. The book is available in including English, Spanish, and Russian; but not in Somali, Hmong, Oromo, French, or Ojibwe. We create customized, bilingual editions to ensure that we can welcome all our newborns with books in the language closest to their hearts. (Don't worry, we have permission!) Buying a special Peek-A-Boo! honor card ($30) allows a donor to support this project by contributing the funds needed to buy all the books given by the nursery in a single day.

Reach Out and Read

Reach Out and Read partners with medical providers to promote early literacy and school readiness in exam rooms nationwide by giving new books to children and advice to parents about the importance of reading aloud. Participating families read together more often, and their children enter kindergarten better prepared to succeed, with larger vocabularies and stronger language skills.

Reach Out and Read builds on the unique relationship between parents and medical providers to develop critical early literacy skills in children, beginning at 6 months of age and continuing through age 5. Across the country, more than 4 million children and their families participate every year through programs in 5,000 clinics.

Children's Literacy Reach Read Logo Large

In 2003, when HCMC's downtown Minneapolis Pediatric Clinic became the sixth Reach Out and Read site in the state, only 8,000 Minnesota children were involved. HCMC primary care clinics in its Brooklyn Park, East Lake, Richfield, and Whittier locations soon followed.

HCMC has served as the state's unofficial Reach Out and Read incubator since 2005, contributing office space and facilities to the state's coalition of Reach Out and Read clinics and two of our pediatricians are featured in the Reach Out and Read Minnesota promotional video. Today, there are 140 Reach Out and Read affiliated clinics statewide and one of every five Minnesota children in the target age group participates (approximately 80,000 children annually). To learn more visit the national Reach Out and Read website.

Book Buddy

Children's Literacy Book Buddy Graphic

All books distributed outside of the Books for Babies and Reach Out and Read programs fall under our Book Buddy umbrella. Books are always free and are shared not only with patients but with siblings and visitors as well.

As a social worker explained: "When every child gets a book, we strengthen the entire family." That's why we give books to the young cousin who accompanies his best buddy to the ER as well as the grandchild of a patient in the ICU.

Our Book Buddy volunteers read in reception areas and exam rooms (at medical staff request) to invite children of all ages to share a literacy experience and to make reading accessible and most importantly – FUN!

Where do the books go?

All Hennepin Health System Children's Books % Books Book #
Outpatient Pediatrics 40% 13,631
P4 Lab 10% 3,427
Emergency Dept. 10% 3,266
HCMC-Brooklyn Park 7% 2,408
Books for Babies 6% 2,195
Dentistry 6% 2,146
HCMC-Whittier 4% 1,343
HCMC-Richfield 3% 1,162
Patient Registration 3% 1,046
Surgical Admissions 2% 634

A typical weekly timeslot is an hour and a half to two hours, though longer shifts are available. Learn everything you need to know to become a Book Buddy from the Volunteer Services Hospital Program.

During the day (M-F), Book Buddy readers read to children in the Pediatric Clinic Waiting Room and in other reception areas where there may be a high volume of young children. Evening and weekend reading hours are only available in the Emergency Department. You need to be a friendly, enthusiastic book lover, who’s patient, kind, and willing to go with the flow. Check out entries from our Story Log to get an idea of what to expect.

Do you speak another language? Many of our young patients are Spanish speakers so readers who speak Spanish are always in demand. Remember, chances are you’ll be reading to someone younger than a third grader (though not always) – you don’t need an advanced degree or complete fluency to share a book with a three-year-old. If you are a native speaker, you must speak fluent English – orientation and all training is conducted in English.

There is always a lot to do for Book Buddies that work behind the scenes, including sorting, cleaning and processing book donations, checking in book purchases, entering data, stocking book carts, filling book bins and organizing and distributing magazines.

If you can’t make a long-term commitment, won’t shoehorn one more regular activity into your schedule, or don’t want to trek into the city, but you still want to contribute your talents, contact the Children’s Literacy Liaison, Lynne Burke, at We need volunteers to work on committees, advise us, speak on the program’s behalf, design a snazzy, portable, professional display, take photos, and introduce us to folks you think should know about our work. Got a truck? Once or twice a year we just need help picking up a donation. Let us know what you can do.

Stories On Demand

Children's Literacy Stories on Demand Logo

Because our volunteers can’t be everywhere-all-the-time, and parents often have to juggle multiple responsibilities, we have found ways to deliver a tale well told 24/7, with a little help from technology.

One channel of HCMC’s closed-circuit TV programming is devoted entirely to children’s books. Tuning any hospital TV with access to Channel 50 brings up video editions of well-loved children’s books like Amazing Grace, Antarctic Antics, and Chrysanthemum. We’ve assembled a multi-hour loop of professionally produced videos by companies that cater to young audiences to ensure that no matter when or where a child asks "Can I have a story?" the answer is always "Yes!"

From February 15th through March 31st, every Party City store in Minnesota will be selling a $5 Discount coupon for $1 with ALL proceeds donated to the Children’s Literacy Program! Stop in to add your name to the bookmark wall and snag a great deal for a dollar.