Children’s literacy: Barbara Bush and Texas Children’s


Pi Beta Phi Family/Patient Library | Texas Children's Hospital
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Since the recent passing of our beloved former First Lady of the United States, Barbara Bush, I’ve had time to reflect on our hospital’s commitment to promoting literacy – a cause she held very dear and undoubtedly a significant aspect of her legacy.

In 1983, Texas Children’s board member Virginia McFarland approached Physician-in-Chief Dr. Ralph Feigin to make her plea for a children’s library in the hospital. He agreed, if she could find the space. In February 1984, with funding and volunteer support from the Houston Pi Beta Phi Alumnae Club, a linen closet magically became a library, and the story began. 

Mrs. Bush once stated, “[m]ost of our nation’s problems would be solved if every man, woman and child could read, write and comprehend.” These words almost go hand-in-hand with the core mission statement of Texas Children’s, “to create a healthier future for children and women throughout our global community by leading in patient care, education and research.” The Pi Beta Phi Patient/Family Library and Book Nooks were established to help promote literacy and provide support and distraction to patients and their families in the hospital or doctor’s office. We are so fortunate that Texas Children’s is a place where treating the whole patient, mind, body and soul is essential, and that the Houston Pi Beta Phi Foundation continues to help fund these efforts 34 years later.

To that end, all three of our hospital campuses have full patient/family libraries open to inpatients and outpatients. We have over 150 Book Nooks located throughout outpatient waiting areas in Wallace Tower, the Pavilion for Women, Texas Children’s Pediatrics practices, The Centers for Children and Women and Texas Children’s Health Centers and Specialty Care locations. Each has books for children to read as they wait. This provides a calming distraction for our families, and allows time for them to bond while reading a story.

Julia Allison, who served as our library coordinator for 29 years, coined the library motto: “It has a little something for everyone.” The atmosphere of our spaces allows patients and families to feel transported out of the hospital and into a cozy and inviting library. Open daily, the libraries offer books of all kinds and for all ages – board books, storybooks and chapter books for children and adults, alongside medical, parenting, non-fiction and foreign language books. Additionally, there are board games and puzzles to play with in the library or to take back to inpatient rooms, DVDs, computers with printers, a copier and a fax machine.

We also offer special events and programs, such as Tuesday Bingo Game Night with the Junior League of Houston, monthly education programs from the Houston Downtown Aquarium and even story times and author signings with our own Dr. Ed Buchanan and his engaging “Mental Ninja” books. Speaking of events – we’ll be celebrating Japanese Children’s Day, “when families celebrate the healthy growth and happiness of children,” this Fri. May 4 at 1 p.m. in the main campus Pi Beta Phi Patient/Family Library on the 16th floor of West Tower. This program is brought annually to the hospital by the Consulate-General of Japan in Houston, and includes Japanese storytelling, origami and crafts.

I’m so very proud to be a part of Texas Children’s Hospital, where we can support literacy across the entire hospital system and prioritize the promotion of healthy minds and improvement of children’s literacy.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Pi Beta Phi Family/Patient Library, Book Nooks or the numerous other library services provided at Texas Children’s Hospital, click here