HCA Gulf Coast
November 07, 2023

Groundbreaking pilot program to impact 920 Houston-area babies and their caregivers

Houston, Texas – HCA Houston Healthcare and The Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation are pleased to announce Raising a Reader, a pilot program aimed at giving more babies a strong and healthy start. Recognizing the pivotal role of parents and caregivers as their child's first teachers, this innovative initiative aims to provide families with the tools they need to support their child's growth, promoting early literacy, healthy brain development, and a strong foundation for infants.

“We are absolutely thrilled to partner with the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation to launch the Raising a Reader program. This groundbreaking initiative underscores our commitment to nurturing early childhood development, empowering new mothers, and enhancing the overall well-being of our community,” said Megan Marietta, CEO of HCA Houston Healthcare West.

“The early years of life are a critical period of development when the human brain doubles in size during the first year and reaches 90% of its adult size by the age of five,” said Dr. Julie Baker Finck, President & CEO, Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation. “Healthcare providers are trusted sources of information for families, especially as they navigate how to best care for their child during the first few years of life. While a pilot project right now, we are committed to scaling up this initiative as quickly as possible, because we know how vital it is to educate and empower parents to be their child’s first teachers.”

The Raising a Reader program will launch in November coinciding with National Family Literacy Awareness Month, and will run through the holiday season, concluding at the end of the calendar year. HCA Houston Healthcare Clear Lake and HCA Houston Healthcare West will pilot this initiative serving 920 families and their newborns. The resources for the program have been made possible through the generous support of the Young Professionals Group of the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation.

"As we approach National Family Literacy Awareness Month, this initiative is not just a significant milestone but a profound commitment to ensuring that the children in our community have the best possible start in life," said Todd Caliva, CEO at HCA Houston Healthcare Clear Lake. “We believe that by nurturing early literacy and fostering healthy brain development in our community's youngest members, we're sowing the seeds for a brighter future for our next generation. We look forward to the positive impact this initiative will have on our community and we're excited to see the positive changes it will bring for the families we serve."

New mothers participating in the program will receive a Raising a Reader bag, which includes an indestructible book, a letter, and informative resources with suggested activities for fostering healthy brain development and early literacy. They will also receive a list of 100 recommended books to read with their infants, a library card for the Harris County Public Library system, and a prescription to read to their baby for at least 15 minutes every day. HCA Houston Healthcare Clear Lake and HCA Houston Healthcare West will actively support and educate parents about the program by displaying customized Raising a Reader content on closed-circuit monitors in labor and delivery rooms. This content will provide fast facts about the importance of early literacy, tips for parents on supporting early literacy success and healthy brain development and guidance on what children should know and be able to do by the age of two.

Moreover, physicians, nurses, and other hospital staff will consult with new mothers about the Raising a Reader resources before they are discharged, ensuring they are fully equipped to embark on their journey toward building a strong foundation for their child's future.

Following the pilot project, the program will be evaluated based on feedback from participating HCA Houston Healthcare hospital staff and the parents served. With anticipated further investments, the Raising a Reader initiative aims to expand its reach to more families and integrate it throughout the HCA Houston Healthcare system in 2024 and beyond.