For her sixth birthday, Sophia Friedman didn't ask for games or a doll, although she is saving for an American Girl Doll.

For her sixth birthday, Sophia Friedman didn't ask for games or a doll, although she is saving for an American Girl Doll.

The kindergartner at Bailey Elementary School instead asked friends to bring new or gently used books to donate to Nationwide Children's Hospital's "Reach Out and Read" program.

The collection drive generated nearly 500 books for the literacy program at Children's.

While one friend brought a laundry basket of books, Sophia and her 4-year-old sister, Chloe, also went through their own books for the donation.

"It was a good mix of new and used books," their mother, Erin Friedman, said. "I can't believe we got that many books."

Reach Out and Read is a national program that Children's has been a part of for 15 years.

Program coordinator Claudia Barrett said it's the second-largest program in the country.

The books donated by Sophia will be given to children who go to one of 11 primary-care centers based in low-income areas around central Ohio. The program is focused on children "at the highest risk of academic failure," Barrett said. "The pediatricians, starting at 6 months, prescribe a new book during a well-child visit and talk to parents about why starting to read to them at that age is important."

The program also includes volunteers in the waiting area who show parents how to read to their children.

"We also have a structured volunteer curriculum," Barrett said. "There's engagement for children and families in music and literacy activities in the waiting areas. What this does is, it reinforces the doctor's message and encourages parents to learn through observation. One thing we've found is, parents didn't know they were supposed to be reading with their kids. Many weren't read to as kids themselves."

The nonprofit Reach Out and Read program gets books through monetary donations, grants and book donations.

"Gently used books we receive from people in the community, like Sophia, who is a phenomenal young lady," Barrett said.

The group works to help children realize how their donations would be used, she said.

"Sophia came to the Olentangy primary-care center, and we took her on a tour, and she met some doctors and took a couple of pictures," Barrett said. "So it really gives them a sense of where these books are going."

Sophia said she enjoyed the tour.

"It was fun," she said. "I liked seeing the doctors."

Being a bit of a book fan herself - her favorite is "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish" - Sophia said it's important to have books "so you can read to your kids when you're old."

Erin said the experience was great for both girls and that Chloe had expressed interest in doing the same thing for her birthday.

"They made (Sophia) feel so special," Erin said. "It was just an amazing experience. She was just beaming when Claudia explained to her that the books are going to children out there who may not have books."

If she didn't have any books of her own, Sophia said, she would miss reading.

"Being in such a great area, I thought it was good to expose them to what's outside the good fortune of our area," Erin said.

According to Barrett, the program is growing, with several young children donating books.

"It just really makes me appreciate the community we live in that we have parents out there instilling the value of community service in their children at such a young age," she said. "I would say several kids have started doing this, and it seems like each year we have more and more people doing this."