Read To Grow Gives Books to Families

Read To Grow delivers books to more than half the newborns in the state and helps thousands of Connecticut families create language-rich environments for their children.

Photo credit: Read to Grow.

One of the best and least expensive ways to help young children develop the ability to learn is to surround them with books. Thousands of Connecticut parents of newborns are making this effort and getting started with building home libraries because of the work of Shoreline nonprofit, Read to Grow.

About 60 percent of all babies born in the state, more than 20,000 annually, receive a quality hard-cover book before leaving the hospital from Read to Grow's program, Books for Babies. Volunteers visit maternity wards to distribute the books and talk to parents about the importance of reading.

Recently, the program expanded into Community Health Centers, where expecting mothers can receive up to six books to help them start a home library.

"So much is known now about how much happens in the brain in the first three years of life," says Read to Grow Executive Director Kyn Tolson. "Sharing books with a child creates an emotional bond that gives many extra benefits."

Books in the home, according to a 2010 study, has a stronger influence on the future academic achievement of a child than the education level of the parents. The study shows that even small increases to a home library were associated with positive educational outcomes, and the greatest impact is made on children whose parents have low education levels.

In addition to providing books to children, Read to Grow promotes early language skills by supporting parents as their babies' first teachers. Parents are encouraged to provide their children with a language-rich environment by talking and to them as much as possible.

"We're trying to give parents the gift of realizing how easy it is to make such a significant difference in child's life," says Tolson.

Read to Grow started in 2000 in New Haven and has since expanded to 14 hospitals around the state. It relies on a corps of 45 volunteers, many of whom are retired teachers. A second program, Books for Kids, provides new and gently used books and literacy supports to children of all ages and to programs and professionals serving children and their families including home daycare providers and social service agencies.

Read to Grow is funded through individual, corporate and foundation contributions, including grants from The Community Foundation.

For more information about Read to Grow, visit its profile on

Did you know?

By the age of 3, children in low-income homes have heard as many as 30 million fewer words than have children in higher-income homes, according to the 1995 Hart & Riley study.
(Hart & Risley, 1995).

This story is part of the Inspiration Monday story series produced by The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven.