Brian Gallagher, Chief Executive Officer of the Reach Out and Read Network, Offers Perspective on the Coming Year

Gallagher Points to Tech Developments as Essential to Our Growth

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 organizations.

Mr. Gallagher became interested in the question, "How can communities come together to support opportunities for children?"

In 2007, he joined Reach Out and Read as Director of National Expansion and today serves as Chief Executive Officer.

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 their communities.

This Cause Was Important, Personally, Because...

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 together."

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 Chapters

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. Gallagher said.

"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 voice.'"

"Reach Out and Read," Mr. Gallagher said,  "Offers layers and layers of support funneling toward each child."

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 forward.

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 program."

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 way."

What will make these efforts possible, he's sure to include are the people. "People make that complexity work."

"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."

Contact Reach Out and Read
Reach Out and Read National Center
89 South St, Suite 201
Boston, MA 02111