From fairy tales and Dr. Seuss rhymes to mystery books and science fiction, storytelling has always sparked imagination and creativity in early childhood development. But research proves that the cognitive benefits don’t stop there. Reading leads to better social and emotional outcomes, and facilitates school readiness and language development.

Reach Out and Read is a book-sharing program where pediatricians prescribe parent/child reading and provide a book during wellness check-ups. The national program began 30 years ago in Boston; Now, there’s 100 Reach Out and Read sites statewide in the Commonwealth of Virginia that serve over 100,000 children.

Dr. Bergen Nelson is a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, one of the latest offices to offer Reach Out and Read. Since their start last July, they’ve given out an upwards of 4,000 books. We spoke with Dr. Nelson for this Hear Together profile. Listen at the audio link below, and learn more about Virginia’s Reach Out and Read programming here.