Books @ Heart


Books@Heart is an early childhood reading program, focused on improving cognitive development and parent-child bonding of the youngest of infants in our Heart Center. Research has consistently shown that early exposure to reading and books enhances cognitive and language development; and that these results are long lasting throughout childhood and beyond in the form of better vocabulary and school scores.

Many of the infants in our Heart Center are hospitalized for long stretches in their first year of life. Books@Heart aims to provide these babies and their families rich opportunities to grow a love for books and foster their development along the way.

How the Program Works

Every infant admitted to the Heart Center under one year old is eligible for the program. The structure mimics the outpatient pediatrician’s schedule, when these babies would otherwise have received anticipatory guidance about reading. Babies receive books at birth or at their first admission to the TCH Heart Center, and then at ages 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 9 months and 12 months.

The family is introduced to the program structure, the benefits of reading to their infants, as well as guidance about language development at the time they receive their first book. They are also given a reading calendar with stickers, to track daily reading sessions. Each family also has the opportunity to meet with a speech and language pathologist to further learn about cognitive development in infancy. Children and families receive reading awards – a medal after 14reading sessions in a month and a trophy after 21 reading sessions. They receive a bonus book if they read every single day of the month. Although the primary focus of Books@Heart is family members reading to the infant, we absolutely love it when other caregivers read as well! Any provider or staff member is empowered and encouraged to read as much as they would like to the babies.

Check out these blogs to learn more about the program:

Who We Are

We are a collaborative of many healthcare professionals: while the program was first initiated by Drs. Kriti Puri and Amanda Ruth, this program would not be possible without the many team members who have joined in support. Our program is well-knit with the inpatient developmental care program led by Dr. Justin Elhoff. Our Speech and Language Pathologists are crucial in assessing our babies’ language development and continuing to follow them outpatient to see if they reach specific milestones. Likewise, our nurses are instrumental in continuing to explain the program to our families, implementing the program throughout the Heart Center, and being readers themselves! We have a dedicated team of inpatient Advanced Practice Providers who meet with families to count stars and continue to encourage reading throughout the inpatient stay. We have also been actively seeking feedback from parents since the early days of the program, with feedback opportunities on each book and calendar – and we have modified our program and book offerings in response. Along the way, other providers with a passion for reading and early childhood development have continued to join our team which now comprises over 10 people.

Our Success

The Books@Heart early childhood reading program has provided many patients and families opportunities to grow and foster a love of books and reading.

Since launching in February 2021, our program has: 

  • Reached more than 650 babies with heart disease and their families
  • Given out more than 1040 books that have been read over 10,400 times
  • Awarded 318 reading medals, 195 reading trophies and 68 bonus book prizes to children

Books@Heart is doing an amazing job by providing books to families in the hospital. It’s been really hard having my baby girl in the hospital, but at least I can look forward to reading time at night. She has such a beautiful, peaceful face while I read to her. Thank you, Books@Heart!

- Texas Children’s Books@Heart parent

We’ve also received positive feedback from our wonderful families over the past two years. From our surveys, we are happy to report that:

  • 91% of families are very satisfied with the program
  • 96% of families feel that the program improves their patient experience at Texas Children’s and makes them feel more engaged
  • The proportion of families reading to their child every day increased from 32% before the program to 64% after the program
  • The proportion of families with no books at home decreased from 21% before the program to 9% after the program

What a wonderful program. Our grandson will be leaving the hospital with his own library of children’s books! It made a long stay so much better. Thank you!

- Texas Children’s Books@Heart patient family

Finally, Books@Heart is committed to community and volunteer engagement.

Highlights include:

  • Partnering with The Woman’s Club of Houston for a community book drive in 2022
  • Adding four Texas Children’s summer volunteers to the program in 2022
  • Incorporating one year-long Texas Children’s volunteer in 2022-23
  • Welcoming a pre-med student from Rice University to be our “Books@Heart Ambassador”

The Books@Heart program is just one of the many ways the physicians, staff and volunteers at Texas Children’s Hospital seek to make a life changing difference.

Want to get Involved?

The launch and execution of Books@Heart is made possible by many generous donations. Our friends, family, colleagues, and even community partners lavishly donated books and supplies to our patient. If you are interested in learning more about the books we distribute, please check out the list here.

If you are interested in donating, please visit here.

Giving website or send us books from our Amazon wishlist along with a message for our heart warriors.

If you have any questions or feedback, please write to us at booksatheart@texaschildrens.org