A Healthy Diagnosis Through Reading and Literacy

Excited kids showing their Spiderman commic books

As a family doctor, I believe in the benefits of reading.

I know that opening a good book can help boost vocabulary, reduce stress, improve empathy and help a child develop a life-long love of reading.

But I also know firsthand that becoming a better reader — at all levels and ages — can usually lead to healthier lives for children and families.

One positive example, of course, is improved cognitive function. There are, however, many kinds of healthful outcomes. Just think, for instance, of how crucial reading comprehension can be when it comes to parents fully understanding the nutrition labels on the food and drinks they and their children consume. Or, when senior citizens are fully able to understand the warning or dosage information on their prescription medicines.

Reading benefits begin at the start — during the crucial time of growth between birth and age five. That’s when learning readiness for children can be greatly aided by parents and loving adults, not to mention teachers and librarians, through reading time and sharing stories. Research has shown that reading together promotes early brain development, emotional bonding, and the parent–child relationship.

There is something magical about books and the special interaction that takes place during “laptime” and “naptime” reading whether at home, at school or at the library. I believe deeply in supporting all children in their intellectual, social and personal achievement — and how the simple habit of reading can have such a wonderfully positive and powerful impact in each of those areas.

It’s clear that books — along with other learning and health resources — can be the socio-economic determinant for so many, especially for families in at-risk communities. Studies show that more than 1 in 3 American children start kindergarten without the language skills they need to learn to read.  And each year, about 80 percent of our nation’s kids who live in poverty fail to develop reading proficiency by the end of third grade.

For all these reasons, The Molina Foundation, since its inception in 2004, has been dedicated to the mission of reducing disparities in education and health. Last year, we worked hard to reach our goal of donating 1 million new children’s books to libraries, nonprofits, schools and service groups across the nation.

This spring, we have successfully launched our 2017 Share-a-Story Campaign for Kids. It’s a book distribution effort in designated regions of the country to highlight the importance of storytelling and book reading for children of all linguistic, cultural and economic backgrounds. So far, we have donated more than 34,000 books to organizations in 13 states.

The campaign coincides with the celebration of Día de los Niños/Día de los Libros (Children’s Day/Book Day). I’m happy to know that The Molina Foundation has been recognized by the ALSC as an Official Supporter of Día.

There is no doubt that reading, as part of word-rich home environments, can help build a more certain and successful future for children. Through our book donations and partnerships with organizations, I can proudly say The Molina Foundation is doing its part to promote early literacy and its many advantages.

I am thankful for the collaboration with and leadership of community libraries, agencies and schools to help improve the lives — and health — of children and families through book and stories.

And I am thankful for all the opportunities we have created for sharing the many healthful benefits of reading.

(Photo used with permission from


Guest blogger Dr. Martha Bernadett holding children's books
Photo by Jamie Knowles

Dr. Martha Molina Bernadett, a family physician, is founder and president of The Molina Foundation, a national nonprofit organization based in Long Beach, Calif. Learn more about the foundation and its work at:

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at

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