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Read for Wellness

About the Project

Our program, “Read for Wellness,” is specifically designed to reach children from diverse backgrounds, including Black, Latino, and ethnic minorities, as well as those with low-income backgrounds. We recognize that illiteracy rates often vary by zip code, and we are committed to reaching the most underserved, underrepresented, and marginalized children across the nation. We accomplish this by equipping children with e-reader devices and granting them access to carefully selected print and e-books that cater to various aspects of their development, including enjoyment, learning, therapy, health, literacy, and educational support.

Over the past 12 months, we have expanded our work into Hospitals such as Riley for Children, in Indianapolis, and other community based & Pediatrics centers. 

“Books are a helpful tool we use to explain a medical procedure, to comfort and lower a child’s anxiety, or for offering distraction – we find reading is very helpful and healing.”

McKenna, Child Life Specialist, Riley Hospital

In summary, our objectives encompass:

  • Ensuring that each child thrives in the development of their foundational literacy skills.

  • Equipping each child with suitable digital or hardcopy books that provide a pathway to discover the joy of reading.

  • Increasing the connectedness of families, healthcare providers, and children around the enjoyment of books and learning.

  • Providing an effective activity to fill the endless hours spent in hospitals, at home without the ability to study, read, or learn.

Need Being Addressed

Research from James Heckman, Economist and Noble Prize winner tells us that $1 spent in early literacy development will return $13 back to the community. With no intervention, the lifelong economic cost and social impact of illiteracy is estimated in the hundreds of millions.

Early intervention is the key to addressing the literacy crisis in our nation. Shockingly 21% of adults nationwide are illiterate in 2023, with 54% of them reading below a 6th grade level with low levels of literacy costing the U.S. up to. 2.2 trillion annually. The issue intensifies among children, of whom 60% from low-income backgrounds face illiteracy and a significant reading gap. 61% of low-income children in America lack access to books at home, placing them at severe disadvantage. To put it simply, 1 in 4 children in the U.S. grows up without learning how to read and write.

The statistics speak to the urgency of our mission. Children facing additional adversities are particularly vulnerable to poor outcomes. Early life adversities significantly hinder a child’s development and emotional well-being resulting in school absenteeism, learning loss, anxiety, depression, and traumatic stress. For example, data shows children dealing with pediatric illness are 3x more likely to repeat grades, report academic challenges, and have 5x more school absenteeism. These children often struggle with low level literacy skills at each grade level and face emotional challenges. Hospital support services are often insufficient due to budget constraints and staffing issues, additionally leaving these children without the necessary resources when they return home.

The Power of Books

Literacy has the power to transform a child’s life. When children facing challenges embrace reading, they can overcome obstacles and envision a better future. Stories have a unique ability to connect with children, helping them cope with stress, transition from isolation to connection, and build confidence amid anxiety. Books offer a healthy escape, a sense of normalcy, and the ability to reduce stress while enhancing resilience. Within the pages of books, children find comfort, hope, and inspiration to persevere.


For partnership or other inquiries, contact Maria Gregory, Read for Wellness, Program Manager at 815-451-5561 or maria@USAReads.org

Read for Wellness