Buying a Home: The 10 Best Cities for Families

9. Boston

Population: 555,249
Average home cost: $159,600
Number of parks: 215

  • Has the highest number of pediatricians per capita of any city in our survey
  • Improved the ratio of students to computers from 63 to 1 in 1996 to 6 to 1 currently
  • Boasts one of the strictest state childcare mandates in the country -- requiring that one employee care for no more than three children 9 months and younger and four children 9 to 27 months
  • Sponsors the Duckling Tour, which lets children waddle, flap, and quack their way through Beacon Hill (stopping for treasure hunts at historic sites), across the Public Garden with its Make Way for Ducklings statues, and down to the Swan Boats, which cruise around the lagoon
  • Houses the Museum of Science, where visitors can see their body spread over 100 mirrors in the new light house exhibit

City highlight: Just over a decade ago, pediatricians at Boston Medical Center thought they might be able to help kids read better -- not just feel better. "Since literacy is the passport to success, the doctors decided that they should stop handing out lollipops during each visit and start handing out books," says Sean Palfrey, M.D., president-elect of the Massachusetts chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

With community donations, the doctors and early childhood educators launched Reach Out and Read. Doctors use the opportunity to educate parents about their child's development. "For instance, we tell parents, 'At this stage, your child should be able to identify what's in the pictures in a particular book,'" says Dr. Palfrey.

Today, more than half of Boston's pediatricians participate in the program, which has spread to dozens of other cities. It's also gained scientific acclaim: A recent study shows that it encourages reading at home and helps boost language skills.

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