Babies with Books: a Youth⎯Led Initiative

Sophia Elfrink

Babies With Books is a student-led organization founded by Benjamin Olshin ‘21, a Junior at Catlin Gabel. The organization provides books to families in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, the goal of which is to provide books to and educate families about the importance of reading in the process of development and in order to improve early literacy rates.*BWB is the only youth-led NICU reading program in the country and is creating a model for NICUs across our city, the NW region and beyond.

Babies With Books supports education and equity by providing all NICU families books and education, regardless of the family’s documentation or socioeconomic status.

Babies With Books Mission:

  • Engage youth in meaningful service
  • Support infant brain development
  • Promote family bonding
  • Support academic and social success

Why the NICU?

NICU babies are at an increased risk of poor health and developmental complications due to:

  • Medical Complications
  • Decreased normal sensory experiences
  • Family socioeconomic stressors/ circumstance
  • Separation of babies and families

BWB has held more than 60 book distributions and distributed 1,700 books, all of which were new. It has served more than 600 families, giving them each an opportunity to select 3 books. BWB offers books in 7 languages including English, Spanish, and Russian, the most common languages of the RCH NICU families. BWB members are students from 7 high schools across the greater Portland Metro Area. Lauren Brok ‘20 and Stephanie Keenan ‘20 of OES are members of BWB.

“BWB is supported by Randall Children’s Hospital (RCH), the Legacy Foundation, OnPoint Community Credit Union, and Reach Out and Read (a national non-profit organization promoting early literacy). We are working on implementing public reading spaces throughout Randall Children’s Hospital.” ( )


BWB is always looking for student volunteers! In order to volunteer you will need to attend a volunteer orientation at Randalls Children’s Hospital. Help children grasp the importance of reading with trained medical professionals in a hospital setting! Babies With Books is a youth-led program that provides books and information on the importance of reading with babies to families in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to support early literacy and family bonding. Each weak members meet with NICU families to provide them with children’s books and educational materials on how and why to read with their baby.

BWB is a great opportunity to engage in your community and meet students from other schools!

If you love babies and want to work in a hospital setting, BWB is for you! To those interested in becoming a member of Babies With Books email is the best method of contact. 


For more information:


Instagram: @babies_with_books