An Interview With Earl Martin Phalen, CEO, Reach Out and Read
When a doctor says, “Take two of these and call me in the morning,” most patients would be surprised to be handed books. But Reach Out and Read finds that giving books to children and advising their parents on the educational benefits of reading aloud turns out to be good medicine.
Literacy rates greatly improve among children aged 6 months to 5 years who are aided by this Somerville, Mass.-based charity, ROR CEO Earl Martin Phalen says.
Since its small start 21 years ago at Boston Medical Center, ROR has grown to 4,654 sites in 50 states in 2010. Now, with 42 employees and a more than $13 million annual operating budget, the nonprofit partners nationwide with “doctors, nurse practitioners and other medical professionals [to] incorporate Reach Out and Read’s evidence-based model into regular pediatric checkups, by advising parents about the importance of reading aloud and giving developmentally appropriate books to children.”
An important page in ROR's operating manual is fundraising. About 44 percent of the operating budget comes from contributed income, which five employees are tasked with generating.
Phalen says ROR places “special emphasis” on creating this learning environment for children who are growing up in poverty.
FundRaising Success: Please tell us a little about the organization's history.
Earl Martin Phalen: Since its inception in 1989 at Boston City Hospital (now Boston Medical Center), Reach Out and Read has revolutionized the field of pediatric care. Using a three-part literacy promotion model developed by pediatricians and educators, Reach Out and Read has grown exponentially, blossoming from 34 programs in nine states in 1994 to our current 4,654 sites across all 50 states in 2011. Reach Out and Read now serves 3.9 million children (more than one-third of American children living in poverty) and distributes 6.4 million books annually.