Since 2000, healthcare providers in Knox County have given 44,200 books to Maine children as part of the Raising Readers program, a statewide initiative that provides free books to all Maine children between birth and age five.

Pen Bay Healthcare hosts five of the eight Raising Readers sites in Knox County including Pen Bay Family Medicine, Pen Bay Pediatrics, Pen Bay Medical Center, Robert N. Merrill, M.D., and Rockport Family Medicine.

The three additional Knox County sites are Hope Healthy Primary Care, Islands Community Medical Services and Midcoast Medicine.

According to the Raising Readers 2012 Annual Report, providing books to children is important for several reasons such as growing up with as few as 20 books in the home has a significant impact on learning; children who grow up literate are better able to care for their health as adults; reading aloud to children helps build important connections that a child needs to learn; and children whose parents read to them just 20 minutes a day are more likely to enjoy reading and be skillful readers themselves, which makes them more likely to stay in school and enjoy success later in life.

These practices integrate books into routine office visits until the children reach age five. Parents are given a set of books to take home from the hospital with their newborns and the children receive additional books at each well child visit until they reach five years of age. Each participating child receives at least 12 books through the program. Last year, Knox County healthcare sites gave out 4,094 books through the Raising Readers program; so far this year, they have given out 2,379.

For more information on the Raising Readers program, visit raisingreaders.org or contact one of the healthcare providers listed above.