We were deeply honored when Brian Gallagher,
Chief Executive Officer of the Reach Out and Read (ROR) network,
agreed to be interviewed for our blog.
We got to ask him why the cause of early
childhood literacy is important to him, how he came to this work,
and what he's looking forward to for the future of the organization
and the mission.
How He Found This Work
Mr. Gallagher had always been in education. He
taught in North Carolina for two years, was involved with a
workforce development agency in Boston, taught community college,
then became involved in policy and community grassroots
Mr. Gallagher became interested in the question,
"How can communities come together to support opportunities for
In 2007, he joined Reach Out and Read as
Director of National Expansion and today serves as Chief Executive
He told us that this fit within his passion for
education, having worked in a secondary school, and in older adult
education, and this was an opportunity to see things from the
beginning through a growing organization.
The model was very intriguing, he said. From the
start he was working with pediatricians, state leaders and other
organizations throughout the country to bring Reach Out and Read to
This Cause Was Important, Personally,
Mr. Gallagher didn't start with background in
early literacy or pediatrics. Understanding the importance of both
and with a curiosity about their intersection, he was interested in
how the organization made the model so effective, given all the
things doctors have to do during any given well-visit.
"It's so elegant in its model, but incredible in
its complexity, in terms of what it takes to continue to grow and
support this program. It's remarkable how all the pieces come
In bringing the program to communities across
the country, Mr. Gallagher found he didn't have to sell doctors on
the concept. Many knew this was an opportunity to talk to parents.
But the question was how to do we make this something that's
embedded in the culture of the practice?
"That's where the value of Reach Out and Read
really comes in," he said, "We answer the questions about the HOW
and WHY in regards to implementing the program. It's not a book
distribution program. It's about how we engage with parents and
caregivers, and get practices and providers to join our cause,
enroll in the program, support the program and get others to do so.
We create value our providers see in being part of the ROR network,
while empowering individual site program coordinators to make the
program their own."
The beauty of ROR, in so many ways, is that
individual doctors feel ownership over their ROR program, he
continued. We are incredibly grateful for the intrinsic desire our
doctors have in helping young children and their families be
healthy and on track for success in life and in school. We feel the
least we can do is provide them with the training and tools to help
them implement the program.
Looking Forward, National + Local
Local affiliate leaders are the genesis of
relationships established with medical providers, the communities,
foundations, corporations and individual stakeholders.
"Reach Out and Read Georgia," Mr. Gallagher
specified, "are the eyes and ears of ROR at the state and region
level. This is how we are able to scale our reach nationally and
move in terms of improving outcomes in both programming,
achievement levels with children and funding."
National provides services to the network as a
whole and often brings resources to sites that are in unaffiliated
areas. Many states are collaborating with local partners on
creative and innovative projects and are truly at the nexus of the
work that's happening locally, so they feed National's efforts and
innovation, as well.
How Reach Out and Read Fit the Needs of Our
Country Right Now
"Our model is simple, but we are able to fit
into so much of what is happening around parental engagement,
children's resilience, and bringing books into the home," Mr.
"Given our growing network," he continued, "ROR
is seen as a vehicle to reach children. It's not just about making
sure they have books. It's about reaching pediatricians and
demonstrating that they can have an impact because of their unique
relationships with children and parents. Books are a tool to
provide that interaction."
He said that one of the goals of ROR is to
implore parents that literacy can help their child with so many
issues they fear they might confront down the line.
"Despite anything that's going on in a child's
life, the pediatrician reminds parents and caregivers that they are
the most important person in that child's life. 'That child needs
to hear from you. Your child loves you. Your child loves your
"Reach Out and Read," Mr. Gallagher said,
"Offers layers and layers of support funneling toward each
When asked what he's excited about down the pike
for the model and the organization, he cited research
collaborations and the resources of the doctors we serve as
providers of insight that will inform our goals and model going
When we asked about his vision for ROR
affiliates for the coming year, he's looking toward innovation, not
only in the program, but in the program infrastructure.
"We want to engage with providers to find out
what they need and what will be useful to them in implementing the
He also points to technology as being a major
focus in the coming year, as well as elevating the brand and
gaining wider visibility.
"A prominent national platform enables our
affiliates to do the work they need to do in an effective
What will make these efforts possible, he's sure
to include are the people. "People make that complexity
"The national team and our robust, engaged board
are helping to build our future. And, our state affiliates are
carrying on the indispensable work on the ground. Georgia, helmed
by Amy Erickson, certainly is up there among the model in how to
make a state office robust and sustainable and growing.
"Kudos to the ROR GA Georgia staff, and Amy for
the successful presence in Georgia."