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Thank you for your support of Reach Out and Read Wisconsin!
Imagine yourself an elderly woman just diagnosed with diabetes. Or a new parent whose baby was born with a metabolic disorder. Or a recent immigrant suffering from a serious workplace injury. Then imagine how you would feel when you hear words like A1C, phenylketonuria or laceration.
Being sick or getting injured is bad enough. You don’t need the additional stress of not really understanding what’s wrong or how it can be fixed. The best way to have a great health care experience is to ensure patients leave confidently knowing what they need to do and why.
That is what health literacy is all about. Patients get lots of information—often when they are least able to absorb it. That information may be the bridge or the barrier to better health.
Health literacy is much more than understanding words. It is knowing where to get good information, what that information means and how to use the information to make the best decisions.
Some population groups are more at risk. But the real answer is “everyone.” Even people usually confident understanding health information can have low health literacy at times. I’m sure you can remember a time when you had trouble understanding health information because you were very sick, under a lot of stress or taking medications that affected your concentration. I always remember the time when my wife was in the emergency room with intense pain. A strong pain pill made her feel much better. The doctor came in and explained what was going on. But not five minutes after he left, my wife turned to me and asked, “When will the doctor get here?” The pain pill had dropped her health literacy to near zero.
We can’t tell who has low health literacy by looking. And they’re not likely to tell us. That’s why at Wisconsin Health Literacy we advocate the universal precautions approach. Just like using gloves and masks in the clinical setting, universal precautions in health literacy means taking action to minimize risk for everyone. Communicate in a way that everyone understands. Some people think this is dumbing down information and is a disservice to patients. The real disservice to patients is giving them information they can’t understand. Evidence shows even highly literate people prefer simple communications.
Everyone: the patient, the provider and the health care system.
All of us are patients, too. As patients we have responsibility to ask when we don’t understand. But too often we don’t—whether because of language issues, cultural differences or to avoid feeling shame. In one study, during an office visit the physician on average said four words patients didn’t understand. When asked why they didn’t ask what the words meant, most patients said, “I didn’t want to feel stupid.” Health care providers must take an active role in making sure their patients understand by learning and using proven techniques, such as plain language and the Teach Back method. Health care systems need to set policies and dedicate resources to support these techniques.
We know from research that of every 10 adults, nine of them have difficulty understanding health information. Three of them are at the lowest levels of health literacy. They may have trouble completing health forms, communicating symptoms, managing chronic illness or understanding what to do when they leave the hospital or clinic.
These patients are more frequently readmitted to the hospital because they don’t take medications or follow self-care instructions the way they should.
Medication directions are especially troubling. Wisconsin Heath Literacy is working with pharmacies to make prescription medication labels easier to understand. In a recent survey, 1 in 4 respondents said they had taken a medication wrong because they were confused about the directions. They also shared shocking stories, such as:
Wisconsin Health Literacy offers workshops on how to use medications and you wouldn’t believe how common it is for one of the participants to say they take all their pills for the day at one time because they can’t remember how many they’re supposed to take when. Misunderstanding about medications often means the patient won’t get the full benefit. But, at worst, the results can be catastrophic.
People with low health literacy, sadly, are more likely to die earlier. They typically have poorer health knowledge, increased hospital and emergency department visits and higher health care costs.
Health literacy is not a passing fad. It is a lens through which we view all health care communications. The first step is to become aware of the problem. Then take action. Start a health literacy team. Arrange for training on health literacy, get a refresher course on how to use the Teach-Back method or make a plan to review written communications for plain language.
Call us if we can help. Health Literacy practices are quick and inexpensive to implement. They dramatically improve the chances that you and those around you can fully understand and take action on critical health information and services. For more information, contact Steve Sparks, firstname.lastname@example.org, (608) 257-1655 ext. 2, or visit WisconsinHealthLiteracy.org.
In our continuing effort to showcase local Reach Out and Read (ROR) programs and successful community collaborations around early literacy promotion, Sen. Terry Moulton was invited to visit Marshfield Clinic-Chippewa Falls Center Pediatric clinic on Feb. 7, 2018. During the visit, Sen. Moulton read two books aloud to a group of preschoolers, “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie” and “Pete the Cat.”
Also attending the event was Chris Seelen of Eau Claire, former ROR Wisconsin Advisory Council member and current Chippewa Valley ambassador. United Way of Greater Chippewa Valley’s executive director Jan Porath and Director of their Successful Children’s Network, Kari Stroede, also joined in the fun. The United Way of Greater Chippewa Valley shares a commitment to early literacy promotion and provides ongoing book support to Marshfield clinic’s area ROR programs.
After the book reading, Sen. Moulton participated in a mock well-child visit led by Dr. Robert Bullwinkel. During the well-child visit, Sen. Moulton learned how the ROR intervention fits seamlessly into preventative visits, how providers give advice and guidance to parents on signing, talking, playing and reading with their youngest children and how providers can assess a child’s developmental milestones just by watching how they interact with a book.
After the exam, Sen. Moulton spoke to the media about the importance of early literacy promotion. “It is very important to start reading to children at a very young age,” said Sen. Moulton. “I can see a difference in my grandchildren who have been read to regularly.” He also said he was surprised by the growth of the ROR Wisconsin, which now includes 210 clinics.
One of those programs, Marshfield Clinic-Chippewa Falls has participated in ROR for 19 years. Marshfield Clinic system has 18 clinics throughout the state with ROR programs. Since launching their ROR program, the Chippewa Falls Pediatric Clinic has provided literacy guidance and advice to countless parents and have distributed more than 54,000 books. That’s a lot of bedtime stories!
ROR Wisconsin hosts three to four legislative/ community leader visits a year. Our Children’s Health Alliance of Wisconsin AmeriCorp Health Member works to coordinate these visits which are designed to engage community and legislative leaders about early literacy and children’s health. The visits also provide advocacy skill development for medical providers, who talk to legislators about their early literacy promotion efforts and any unique issues facing their communities.
ROR Wisconsin does not currently receive funding from the State of Wisconsin or federal government. Instead our funding is made up of contributions from health systems, grants and donations. ROR Wisconsin provides partial book support to eligible clinics. In 2016, ROR Wisconsin provided more than $48,000 in book funds to 68 clinics across the state.
Eight clinic systems in the state currently fund all book purchases for their participating clinics: Access Community Health Centers, Aspirus, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, Group Health Cooperative of South Central Wisconsin, Gundersen Health System, Monroe Clinic, UW Health and Watertown Regional Medical Center.
ROR Wisconsin is grateful for the opportunity to organize these visits and bring together state leaders and the medical community.
Do you have a Reach Out and Read story? Share with us in the comments below!
Dear Reach Out and Read Wisconsin Staff, Advisory Council, Donors, Partners, Clinics, Care Providers, and Families,
This is a fan letter. Read on to be reminded of how fantastic all of you are for being part of Reach Out and Read (ROR) Wisconsin!
The Origins of Reach Out and Read Wisconsin
Eight years ago, a group of leaders came together to officially launch ROR Wisconsin. We had great thought leadership and advocacy from Dr. Dipesh Navsaria. Dipesh is now the medical director of ROR Wisconsin. We had early adopter health care providers and clinics who were into ROR well before being into ROR was cool. But we did not have paid staff or an organizational home. We knew we were not reaching all the kids and families who could benefit from ROR. Several of us thought a partnership between the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and the American Family Children’s Hospital would catalyze the creation of a Wisconsin affiliate, build a more secure home and expand the scope of this excellent program.
And so, we brought partners together – children’s health care providers, thought leaders, experts in early literacy, a sponsoring organization – and we launched the Wisconsin affiliate of ROR in 2010.
Karen Timberlake and family, with Jim and Jessica Doyle, at the 2010 announcement of the Reach Out and Read Wisconsin affiliate.
Connecting ROR Wisconsin to Jim and Jessica Doyle’s Commitment to Kids
I had the privilege of serving as the Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services from 2008 to 2010; during the time when the ROR Wisconsin affiliate was created. Of all the important work I did in partnership with others during my time as secretary, helping to launch this affiliate ranks right up there as one of the efforts I am personally most proud of.
One of the honors of working for Governor Jim Doyle was the chance to make positive change happen, at scale, for kids and families across Wisconsin. Governor Doyle’s commitment to kids – their health, their education – and Jessica Doyle’s career as an educator – were an inspiration for my colleagues and me in pushing this affiliate across the starting line.
We had terrific leadership from Peggy Troy, CEO of the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and Donna Katen Bahensky, then-CEO of the University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics. We found the perfect organizational host in the Children’s Health Alliance of Wisconsin (Alliance)– another organization built on trust, evidence, collaboration and the greater good. We found great staff and appointed a wonderful advisory council to work with Dipesh, still the capital-C Champion of this work, to make it all happen.
Simple Yet Powerful Success Factors
This effort was made possible by some simple but important fundamentals…as simple and fundamental as reading and just as worthy of lifting up and celebrating. What were the success factors that made ROR Wisconsin possible and continue to sustain it today? Leadership. Trust. Putting the greater good ahead of any one organization or person. Committing to and scaling up an evidence informed program. Learning from others’ successes and challenges, to make the Wisconsin program better.
ROR: An Innovative Program that Addresses a Critical Root Cause of Child Wellbeing
I am drawn to innovation. One of my favorite quotes is from Thomas Edison, who is reported to have said, “There is a way to do it better. Find it.” ROR is a great example of one of my favorite types of innovations. It goes to a root cause, early literacy, of important priorities for every family and every community: child readiness for school and ongoing school achievement. It meets kids and their care givers where they are, in the doctor’s office or clinic, without requiring them to go anywhere else to get a quick literacy assessment, a book and a boost for their early learning. It bridges professional disciplines and organizational boundaries in the name of what really matters – promoting early literacy for kids and supporting their parents and caregivers. It’s cost effective, conducts and uses evaluations of effectiveness and stretches every dollar and volunteer hour as far as it can be stretched.
Celebrating Reading in My Children’s Lives
I am also a proud mom of a son and daughter who are both voracious readers. I have seen the impact of reading in my children’s lives from their earliest years.
I have observed the ways reading builds their imagination, their knowledge and their independence. I want every child and every family to have the relationship with reading that my children have.
We know kids need love, support and positive early learning experiences. We are learning more and more about how truly essential those early experiences are to children’s lifelong health and happiness. ROR takes those principles to heart and delivers, child by child, family by family.
Good For You!
So as I said, this is nothing but fan mail for all of you supporting ROR Wisconsin and continuing the great work Dipesh and others started many years ago. Good For You, all of you who have helped get ROR Wisconsin to this point. Kids and families across Wisconsin are the better for your efforts.
For an update on ROR Wisconsin’s latest impact click here.
On Jan. 29, 2018, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin’s Next Door Pediatrics clinic hosted a legislative site visit with Senator LaTonya Johnson. During the visit, Senator Johnson read aloud from the books If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and Pete the Cat: Snow Daze to a group of students from Next Door’s Head Start program. One of the highlights of the visit was watching the children’s enjoyment while Sen. Johnson read aloud.
After the reading, Sen. Johnson participated in a tour of the medical clinic led by Dr. Brilliant Nimmer, the clinic’s Reach Out and Read (ROR) medical champion. Dr. Nimmer talked about the success of the program and its impact on the community. Since starting ROR in 2010, Next Door Pediatrics has given out almost 6,000 books to children ages 6 months to 5 years.
ROR Wisconsin is grateful for the opportunity to bring together legislative leaders and the medical community to promote, educate and engage around early literacy and children’s health.
On Feb. 1, 2018 Reach Out and Read (ROR) Wisconsin hosted an event in Madison, Wisconsin to highlight the ongoing support of Bob’s Discount Furniture to Reach Out and Read. During the event Cathy Poulin, Bob’s Discount Furniture public relations and outreach director, dressed up as Cat in the Hat. She read aloud from the book Oh, the Things You Can Do That Are Good For You by Tish Rabe to a group of preschoolers from the Waisman Center’s Early Childhood Program.
Prior to the classroom reading, Ms. Poulin presented a $25,000 donation to ROR National Center, in Boston. ROR Wisconsin’s medical director and National Center board of director’s member, Dipesh Navsaria, MPH, MSLIS, MD accepted the check on behalf of ROR National Center.
Bob’s Discount Furniture also donated 100 copies of Tish Rabe’s book, 100 fleece blankets and boxes of Cat in Hat-style hats to the American Family Children’s Hospital. In addition, Bob’s Discount Furniture donated $1,200 in gift cards to ROR Wisconsin clinics to be used to assist clinics in developing literacy-rich waiting rooms.
Thank you Bob’s Discount Furniture for the generous donations to ROR National Center, American Family Children’s Hospital and ROR Wisconsin. We hope the Cat in the Hat comes back to visit Madison again!
Today on the blog, we have our first ever interview with author Julie Bowe. Julie has written books for kids of all ages and currently lives in Wisconsin. Her latest book Big and Little Questions (according to Wren Jo Byrd) received a starred review from Publishers Weekly.
When your kids were young, did you read aloud to them?
Yes! From the time they were babies into their early teens. It was a great way to spend time together, plus it gave us a chance to talk about the stories we were reading and relate them to our own lives.
How did you incorporate reading with them into your daily routines?
I read books to them every evening, even after they were old enough to read on their own. We also loved audio books. My son, especially, loved listening to stories while he played, or when we were driving in the car. We visited the library often! We regularly attended story time and checked out stacks of books to bring home and read together.
What were some of your favorite books you and your kids read together?
We read tons of picture books as well as chapter books and novels. We all enjoyed getting into series books like The Chronicles of Narnia and Harry Potter. My daughter and I read many of the American Girl series books together and my son couldn’t get enough of Artemis Fowl, The Ranger’s Apprentice, and the Warriors series. I loved reading childhood “classics” to them too, like Charlotte’s Web, Harriet the Spy, and all the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. We also totally enjoyed non-fiction books about animals, planets, and historical events.
Why did you decide to write children’s books?
A big part of my desire to write for kids came from reading to my own kids. I had also worked with children at camps and churches for a number of years before staying at home with my daughter and son. I have always been passionate about helping kids figure out who they are and how they want to make a difference in the world. I began freelance writing curriculum for children when my daughter was a toddler and that grew into an interest in writing books for children too. I love writing stories about kids who are in a transitional place in their lives (moving away, making new friends, etc.) and discovering how they make the transition in their own way.
What does the creative process look like for you? Where do you get inspiration for new books and characters?
I especially like to write in the morning when my brain is fresh and the coffee is hot! But when I’m working on a story, it’s always on my mind. Often ideas for a scene, or a snatch of dialogue will pop into my mind while I’m doing something else during the day. So I’m always jotting down ideas or portions of scenes on scraps of paper. Then I’ll take the scraps of ideas to my computer and type them into the story. I do most of my writing at my home computer, but I also like to write in public places so I can observe people and hear the rhythm of language. I think it helps me create characters who seem like real people when I do some of my writing with people, especially kids, around. The kids I see are often inspiring. I once met a young girl at a school visit who inspired the idea for my book, Big & Little Questions (According to Wren Jo Byrd). Another time I saw a girl at a mall who inspired the character named Randi, in my Friends for Keeps series. The main character in that series, Ida May, was very much inspired by my own daughter, who was in elementary school at the time I was writing the first book in the series, My Last Best Friend.
What do you hope children (and maybe their parents) take away from your books?
I hope they will see a little bit of themselves in my stories and learn something new about who they are and how they want to thrive in the world. All of my stories deal with the ups and downs of friendship, so I hope they inspire young readers to strive to be kind and supportive friends to one another.
What was it like to find out your book, Big & Little Questions, was named to Barnes and Noble’s Best Books of the Year 2017 list?
I was very happy to hear the news! It’s always affirming when my books are well received by major reviewers, but my favorite reviews come from young readers themselves when they write to tell me they love my books. Such reviews make the hard job of writing good stories really worthwhile.
What is one piece of advice you would give to children or young adults, who want to become authors or illustrators when they get older?
The best way to become a good writer is to be an avid reader! Read lots and lots of books. Write lots and lots of stories. Don’t worry about whether or not your stories are “good enough” to be published. Write because you love to write.
Any additional thoughts/comments on early literacy, the importance of books, or family engagement and reading?
I truly believe the greatest gift you, as a parent or caregiver, can give to a child is to read to them. Make reading a part of your child’s daily routine. Even just fifteen minutes a day will make a positive impact on a child’s life. And chances are it will make a positive impact on your life too.
For more information about Julie and her books please visit her website
A book drive is a great way to collect new and high-quality, gently-used books for a Reach Out and Read program. It also is a wonderful way to bring a community or organization together for a purposeful goal. The books collected will end up in the hands of eager children who participate in Reach Out and Read at a local clinic.
I am a UW-Madison student and founder of a student organization that works with Reach Out and Read Wisconsin. Below is information about our recent UW-Madison campus-wide book drive event – why we hosted it, who was involved and what we did to organize and promote the drive.
Posters made for the campus book drive
As an eight-year volunteer for Reach Out and Read programs in the Milwaukee area, I was ecstatic to continue my early literacy promotion work as a UW-Madison student. In early 2017, I started a campus chapter for Reach Out and Read Wisconsin, called Badgers Reach Out and Read. It is made up of undergraduate and graduate students who work together to help the Reach Out and Read Wisconsin through volunteering, fundraising and helping to collect literacy materials.
November 3 through December 8, 2017, our organization hosted a campus-wide book drive on Reach Out and Read Wisconsin’s behalf. The UW-Madison campus gave us a large platform in hopes of many donations.
A Badgers Reach Out and Read book drive planning meeting
How Badgers Reach Out and Read organized and promoted the drive
Five building locations with attractive and visible signage
A key part of our book drive included finding campus drop-off locations for the donated books. We wanted to find donation spots that were well-known and in high-traffic areas. This way, not only would donors easily find a place to drop off their books, but perspective donors walking through a collection-site building would see the signage and be encouraged to participate.
The donation spots for our book drive included five campus buildings: Bascom Hall, Union South, the School of Business, Teacher Education Building and the Speech and Hearing Clinic (Goodnight Hall).
Social media image used to advertise the five drop-off locations
Permission to use these buildings as drop-off locations was obtained through email and in-person communications with respective building supervisors – all of whom were extremely helpful.
After talking with the building supervisors, it was discovered that not only did these buildings receive a lot of traffic from students, staff and the public but four of the buildings represented separate departments. These departments each had student organizations we could partner with for the book drive.
The UW-Madison campus spans about 936 acres. Geographically dispersed donation sites were strategically chosen as a way to bring the large campus together. Having involvement from multiple student organizations also allowed us to have more control over the collection of donated books, as no single student organization could be in all places at once.
For the buildings that did not already have donation bins for us to use, we purchased heavy-duty gray bins. We then hung signs about the book drive over the bins to increase their visibility.
Five Student Organizations
To create a book drive that engaged campus-wide participation, enlisting the help of other student organizations and crossing academic majors and interests accomplished our goal of reaching a wider audience.
The four student organizations we partnered with included the Aspiring Educators organization, Institute of Management Accountants (IMA), Phi Sigma Pi Service Fraternity and the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association (NSSLHA). These organizations combined a mix of literacy-based and service-based organizations.
These organizations promoted the book drive to their members through email, at bi-weekly meetings and hosting service events. During these service events, members could go “thrifting” together for gently used books or sort through books that that had already been gathered.
Many posters, emails, social media posts, shares, tagging, etc.!
Badgers Reach Out and Read members had fun creating beautiful posters to advertise the book drive.
Getting the word out about the book drive was key to the drive being a success. For us, this included sending out general book drive information and a map of donation spots in bi-weekly emails to our 200 student-member database. We encouraged our partnering student organizations to do the same.
We were grateful that many of the building supervisors also included information about the drive in emails to their building staff. This was especially important as many staff have children of their own or have access to children’s books more often than some college students would. The word even got out to local community organizations, and we were grateful for the books donated by The Neighborhood House Community Center of Madison.
Email messages promoting the books drive included attractive and informational attachments.
A campus map clearly showed book donation locations
We used our Badgers Reach Out and Read Facebook page to announce and post updates about the book drive. Chapter officers had fun posing with books and donation bins, creating Boomerang videos showing donation bins filled with books and tagging and thanking members or groups who donated. Our aim was to engage people, hold interest in the drive and get the word out to as many people as possible during the month-long donation period.
We also created a Facebook event through which we could invite others to participate. This was helpful as our officers and members could invite individuals from all different circles.
We made sure to post more advertisements before and during UW-Madison’s Thanksgiving break. For students, this was a prime time when they could go back home to search for books or receive book donations from their home communities (people learned of the event through the Facebook event). For Madison staff and the general public, this was also a time when the business of work and school wound down enough to search for books to donate. A lot of books were donated after Thanksgiving break, and we are thankful for these donations.
The book drive collected 6,155 new and high-quality, gently-used books
On December 8, Badgers Reach Out and Read officers finished collecting and sorting the donated books. To sort the books we followed the Reach Out and Read Wisconsin book guidelines.
A total of 6,155 children’s books were then packed into boxes and transported to the Interstate Books4School, which had graciously offered to store our books for Reach Out and Read Wisconsin. These books included many wonderful gently-used children’s books, as well as new books.
Many donations were of infant-level reading materials, but we also received reading materials that spanned up to age 12. Books for older children can be displayed for reading use in clinic waiting rooms and given to older siblings.
We are so grateful to all of the wonderful donations we received. This book drive would not have been such a success without the continual support from Madison community, students and staff – and of course, Reach Out and Read Wisconsin!
We hope that our journey can help others hold a book drive in their community for a local Reach Out and Read clinic. Here’s to more book drives in the future and to getting more books into the hands of more children in need!
Badger Reach Out and Read officers Kelly (left) unload boxes of books collected through the campus book drive
Let’s face it, there is a lot of online information out there for families with young kids about reading. New stories, resource sheets, book lists and research are all a simple Google search away. It can be overwhelming, contradictory and at times confusing. We have created this list of resources that we rely on to help you find credible, trustworthy information about using books to build your baby’s brain.