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Indian Health Service to distribute 30,000 children’s books to Indigenous families

An Indigenous female doctor in a white lab coat reads a children's book to an Indigenous child during a well-child visit.
Courtesy Of Reach Out and Read
Dr. Naomi Jean Young, left, reads a book with an Indigenous child during a well-child visit at an Indian Health Service clinic in Arizona.

The Indian Health Service is working to provide tens of thousands of children’s books to Indigenous families across the U.S., including parts of the Mountain West.

The federal agency, which provides health services to Native Americans and Alaska Natives on tribal lands, gave a $200,000 grant to Reach Out and Read, a national nonprofit that integrates reading into pediatric care.

The group will use the money to buy more than 30,000 children’s books. The books will be handed out to Indigenous families during well-child visits at dozens of Indian Health Service clinics. In the Mountain West, that includes clinics in New Mexico (11), Colorado (1) and Wyoming (1).

The books that will be given away feature Indigenous characters and are written in half a dozen different Native languages, said Marty Martinez, CEO of Reach Out and Read.

“To give families a book for a 2-year-old or a 3-year-old that's related to their culture, that ties in a Native Illustrator or author or a great story – and celebrates that – is so meaningful,” said Martinez. He added that the “high-quality and diverse” books will help children’s development, too.

According to Reach Out and Read, about a third of young children – and half of those living in poverty – start kindergarten without the skills they need to do well in school.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, KUNC in Colorado and KANW in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Kaleb is an award-winning journalist and KUNR’s Mountain West News Bureau reporter. His reporting covers issues related to the environment, wildlife and water in Nevada and the region.
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