Family Medicine Clinic Adopts a Program for the Books

This article originally appeared in the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants’ April 2019 newsletter and is reprinted with permission from the organization.

Clinically-practicing certified physician assistant Joanna Hebgen is doing her part to change the lives of children through a simple-yet-effective method: books. 

At the SSM Health Family Medicine Clinic in Oregon, Wisconsin, Hebgen implemented the Reach Out and Read program, which strives to incorporate books into the daily lives of children and encourages families to read aloud together. 

Staff members including Physician Assistant of SSM Health Oregon clinic at Wellness Expo showcasing their Reach Out and Read program
SSM Health Dean Medical Group Oregon staff at the Oregon Wellness Expo

The clinic has distributed more than 450 children’s books and created a literacy-friendly waiting area and exam rooms. By adding books and comfy, child-size chairs, children can relax and read before their appointments. 

During wellness visits, providers give each child a book they can take home. Upon presenting the book, providers can observe the child’s and parent’s reactions, which offers insight about the child’s development and the parent’s comfort with reading to the child.  It also paves the way for discussion about the importance of daily reading. 

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), benefits from reading can begin as early as infancy. Kids who are read to regularly have a stronger bond with their parents and learn valuable language and literacy skills. Reading also improves their social, vocabulary, and writing skills, and it can make kids kinder and more empathetic individuals as they grow.

“I love giving out books that I read as a child and also read to my children,” said Joanna Bisgrove, MD. “Parents and kids love the books. I find that the book is a good way to calm a child during an appointment and build rapport with both the children and parents.”

The clinic’s interprofessional staff all contributed to the program’s success, dedicating an estimated 40 hours to the project last year. Three staff members attended the annual Reach Out and Read conference to share experiences with others implementing the program. 

Additionally, the clinic participated in the Oregon Wellness Expo, a free event for families to visit local wellness vendors. Clinic volunteers distributed free books to kids and network within their community.

Due to the program’s overwhelming success, SSM Health plans to make the Reach Out and Read program available at their 25 family medicine and pediatrics clinics in Wisconsin; and funding for the books will be included in the annual budget.

“’Reach Out and Read makes appointments fun.” said Bisgrove.

This project was funded in-part by the NCCPA Health Foundation’s Be the CHANGE grant. Learn more about the Foundation’s grant programs here.

young boys read books aloud together

Every parent is their child’s first and best teacher

As an early literacy librarian, I see 50-100 parents and young children at my birth to 2-year-old storytime every Monday morning. Some parents come to get out of the house, socialize with other grown-ups, or give their child a chance to socialize with other babies their age. Some parents might know that storytime is a great place for their child to learn early literacy skills while others come simply because their child enjoys the books, songs and rhymes.

Many parents look to me as one of their child’s first teachers, but a child’s first and most important teacher is their parent.

parents reading to their child

Some parents don’t realize this or don’t feel confident in their ability to be a teacher. Teaching your child early literacy skills isn’t as daunting as it may sound. Storytimes are the perfect opportunity for librarians to model simple strategies that parents can use to help their child develop early literacy skills. We use strategies based on the American Library Association’s Every Child Ready to Read initiative, which includes:

1. Talking: Talking is important because language is the foundational skill that leads to academic and life success. Children with larger vocabularies do better in school. The best way for kids to learn new words is by including them in every day conversations. This is one of the easiest strategies. You simply talk to your child. Encouraging babies to babble, practicing nursery rhymes and asking your child open-ended questions are great ways to focus on this strategy.

2. Writing: Writing is important because it is directly related to reading skills and helps improve fine motor skills. Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting that your baby sit down and write the next great American novel. Strong fine motor skills support the development of future writing skills. Grabbing toys, stacking blocks and playing with Play-Doh are all great ways to work on writing skills.

3. Reading: Reading is important because so many of our daily activities require the ability to read. Some parents think that their baby is too young to be read to, but this is not the case. You can start reading to your child starting at birth. At first babies will seem to play with books more than look at them, but that is perfectly fine. This will allow them to get comfortable with books and learn skills such as turning pages. It’s important for parents to make reading part of their daily routine so their child can continue to improve their literacy skills and develop a love of reading.

4. Playing: Playing is important because it helps children develop fine and gross motor skills, imagination, and creativity. Children can discover so much about the world around themselves simply by playing and exploring. Babies can start playing during tummy time by placing toys in front of them to look at and reach for. As children get older they learn to play with others and to use their imagination by playing pretend.

5. Singing: Singing is important because it helps break words down into syllables that are easier for babies to understand and remember. Many parents are intimidated by singing because they feel silly or think they have a bad voice. Luckily babies don’t care what your voice sounds like; they just like hearing singing. You can sing lullabies, kid’s songs (If You’re Happy and You Know It, The Itsy Bitsy Spider, ABC’s etc.), your favorite songs from the radio, or even make up songs. Listening to music in the car or around the house is another way for children to learn new words and sounds.  

It is important that parents feel empowered in this role as their child’s first and best teacher. Early literacy librarians and Reach Out and Read medical providers want parents to know they already have the power to make a difference in their child’s life. We are here to provide extra support and guidance to assist parents as they help their children achieve their full potential.

Wisconsin Medical Society provides books and grants to Reach Out and Read Wisconsin

ROR project manager Karin Mahony and Wisconsin Medical Society stand with books that were donated in 2017

Since the founding of Reach Out and Read (ROR) Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Medical Society (WMS) has graciously donated hundreds of new books and has provided funding to ROR Wisconsin to make our work possible. WMS is a policy leader and professional development resource for physicians across the state. They are a unified voice for physicians and their mission is to improve the health of people in Wisconsin. Through their grants and book drives to ROR Wisconsin, WMS is advancing its mission by helping to improve the lives of children and families across the state.

With grant funds provided by WMS, ROR clinics have been able to purchase 17,800 new books. These books are given to grateful children across the state during their well-child exams. ROR providers use these books in their exam rooms as tools to measure developmental milestones. This makes the visits more efficient and fun. At the end of the visit, each child 6 months – 5 years leaves the clinic with a new book in hand. Families are encouraged to read every day and enjoy these books over and over again.

Additionally, for the past two years, WMS staff has hosted a book drive to purchase and collect new books that are given to ROR Wisconsin. Since 2017, 275 books have been donated. Most of these books are purchased by WMS staff at Books4School, a local Madison retailer with books for children of all ages. Books4School is open to the public and has books for as low as $1.00!

With the support from WMS, our work is able to continue. We are able to train more providers, launch more programs, assist in maintaining high-quality programs and provide books for children across the state.  We are grateful for WMS’s mission and the generosity they’ve shown ROR Wisconsin!

ROR project manager Karin Mahony and Wisconsin Medical Society stand with books that were donated in 2017
ROR Wisconsin Project Manager Karin Mahony with WMS staff picking up the books donated by WMS.

There’s still time to support Reach Out and Read Wisconsin’s Advisory Council learning and fundraising event

Last weekend, Reach Out and Read (ROR) Wisconsin’s Advisory Council hosted a learning and fundraising event at 702WI, a creative space in Madison, Wisconsin. ROR Wisconsin donors and guests gathered to learn about the program’s impact on early literacy, clinical care and parent support. Together, they raised hundreds of dollars to keep ROR Wisconsin programming strong throughout the state.

ROR Wisconsin learning and fundraising event
ROR Wisconsin supporters gather to learn more about our work and how they can help

During the event, Dipesh Navsaria, MPH, MSLIS, MD, ROR Wisconsin medical director and Dennis Winters, MS, chief economist for the State of Wisconsin, gave a presentation about the link between high-quality, early interventions like ROR and future economic benefits to the community. For example, every dollar invested in early interventions yields a $7 return on investment to society (Heckman, 2012). Investing in early interventions have shared benefits across sectors. Not only is personal success impacted with better employment opportunities and improved health outcomes but communities as a whole see lower crime rates, less social intervention and higher civil contributions. The business community also sees long-term benefits with a more skilled workforce, higher worker productivity and less employee turnover. To learn more about ROR Wisconsin and our impact please visit our website.

Dipesh Navsaria presents at learning and fundraising event
Dipesh Navsaria, MPH, MSLIS, MD, ROR Wisconsin Medical Director presents to ROR Wisconsin supporters and donors

If you were unable to attend this event, you can still support ROR Wisconsin. Please click here to make a donation today. A gift of just $5 will help provide a local child with a new book and parental support.

Thank you to the in-kind donors who made this event possible: Mary Morgan for the event space, Johnson Public House for coffee and Madison Chocolate Company for chocolates and other treats. 

If you would like to receive an invitation to the next ROR Wisconsin event, please email Alex Rogers.

Heckman, J. J. (December 2012). Invest in early childhood development: Reduce deficits, strengthen the economy. Retrieved from: https://heckmanequation.org/assets/2013/07/F_HeckmanDeficitPieceCUSTOM-Generic_052714-3-1.pdf

To our clinics, providers and families affected by last month’s storms, Reach Out and Read Wisconsin is thinking of you

Dear Reach Out and Read Wisconsin family,
 
On behalf of the Reach Out and Read Wisconsin team, I am sending thoughts to everyone in the state dealing with the aftermath of the unprecedented storms in August and September.
 
We have been thinking of you and your communities throughout the last month as we heard of torrential rains, floods, road washouts, mudslides, evacuations, sheer winds and tornadoes in multiple areas of the state. We know that several of our participating clinics were flooded, along with their entire towns. Superficial cleanup has been astounding, but real recovery will take time.
 
Perhaps, now, you have a few extra moments to let us know your situation and needs:

  • Were your clinics damaged?
  • Did you lose book inventory?
  • Do you have many families who lost homes, including all the books in their homes?
  • Will your usual book funding sources be diverted to emergency relief efforts?
  • How are the children in your community faring?
    • We know of at least one school system that delayed the start of school – acknowledging that the children were too traumatized by loss of homes and sense of normalcy to focus on academics.

Please remind your families that books not only build better brains, they build better bonds. Sharing stories, even without a book in hand, develops and reinforces strong, comforting, nurturing parent-child relationships. These relationships act as protective shields for children living through natural disaster.
 
Reach Out and Read Wisconsin functions on an extremely tight budget. However, what we lack in a financial cushion, we make up for in the strength of our collaborative network, interest in sharing your stories and unstoppable, creative, problem-solving energies.
 
Please tell us of your needs and/or send pictures if possible. We may be able to offer some assistance.
 
Here’s wishing for a month of clearer skies.
 
Karin Mahony and the Reach Out and Read Wisconsin team

graphic of books

Reading programs are really about supporting strong parent-child bonds

This article was originally published by the Cap Times on April 23, 2018.

Toddler at well-child visits at doctor's office receiving a book from her provider. Reading programs often are supporting of parents and children.
PHOTO BY COBURN DUKEHART — WISCONSIN CENTER FOR INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM

Recently, I encountered a new-to-Wisconsin mother and toddler who had left behind a not-so-good environment. As we established trust with one another, it came out that she was concerned about her child’s mild speech delay. The upheaval in their lives meant they hadn’t been able to find a primary care clinic and schedule his regular checkups yet. What could I do that might offer some immediate benefit for them?

As many know, I do a lot of work around early literacy promotion. In the last few weeks, there have been two relevant, notable studies released in this field. The first article is a meta-analysis — a combining of several studies together — showing interventions in parent-child shared reading have clear benefits, not just to the child’s language and literacy skills (we’ve known this for some time), but also psychosocially. There were better social and emotional skills and improved behavior in the children. Less expected was the benefit to parents, who had less stress, less anxiety, and greater confidence in their ability to parent.

The second study was on the Video Interaction Project (created by an NYU friend and colleague, Dr. Alan Mendelsohn). It uses video recording of a parent playing and reading with their child, followed by watching the recording together with a parenting coach who points out notable moments in the interaction. The researchers found decreases in child aggression, hyperactivity, and difficulty with attention.

These both support the value of working on early literacy skills, the foundation of the almost-30-year-old Reach Out and Read program, which makes discussion about early literacy an integral and routine part of checkups in early childhood. (Note: I am the founding medical director of Reach Out and Read Wisconsin, and serve on the national board.)

However, I’d like to point out that these studies emphasize a critical element that’s not always present in the countless literacy programs out there. While you may view Reach Out and Read as a child literacy program, it’s really secretly a parenting program: a program designed to gently and collaboratively support strong shared reading between a parent and a child.

I don’t object to programs that bring high-quality books into a child’s home, but that emphasis is often misplaced; the book itself does little if handed to a child without any other interaction. A child learns the magic and power of reading only when a loving, nurturing, responsive caregiver (usually a parent, but could be anyone) reads aloud with them. A book that sits on the shelf is useless — it only does its magic when open in the hands of a parent and child reading together.

Equally important is a parent who knows how to read effectively to a young, squirmy toddler, a technique known as dialogic reading. Simply reading at a child doesn’t work for a child with a naturally short attention span. Knowing how to read with them and interact is an important learned skill. Merely providing books accomplishes only part of the job — supporting parenting confidence is absolutely essential.

It’s not just about the books. It’s about the act of reading together. A book without a caring adult…is just a book.

The key point: Parents benefit most when we offer clear modeling, coaching and encouragement. It’s not enough to say what to do; careful intentional skill-building is crucial for success. This explains the incredible outcomes seen from high-quality home visiting programs, for example. So question projects and recognize that they are not all the same. Ask yourself if they merely provide resources or whether they are building capabilities or capacities in families

So what of the family I encountered? I took the board book we had given him and pointed out her child’s brief interactions with the book. Then I modeled talking about illustrations and I reassured her that his turning away quickly was just his normal short attention span. Finally, I complimented her on her good parenting when she described how he would bring a book to her and “ask” to be read to.

She beamed with pride. And that’s how I knew we were doing right by her.

Dipesh Navsaria, MPH, MSLIS, MD is the medical director of Reach Out and Read Wisconsin
Dipesh Navsaria, MPH, MSLIS, MD is the medical director of Reach Out and Read Wisconsin

Reaching Out Beyond the Clinic Setting

Dr. Michelle Hill pediatrician at the Prevea West De Pere Health Center
Dr. Michelle Hill pediatrician at the Prevea West De Pere Health Center

Reach Out and Read (ROR) has been one of the most fun and helpful additions to our pediatric practice at Prevea Health. The response from families and children who are receiving our books at their visits is so overwhelmingly positive. We wanted to work on even more ways to integrate this program, not only into our health centers, but also into our community.

Prevea Health has sponsored a children’s play area at Bay Park Square Mall in Green Bay for a few years. This play area is partially enclosed, with little slides and play pieces for kids to climb on. In brainstorming ways to best utilize that space, we felt it would be a great place to expand our messaging about the importance of families reading aloud with their children. Not only would we get to have fun interactions with children in the community, but also we would have the chance to promote the importance of early literacy promotion and model engaging reading behavior.

The mall is a central location to our patient population in Green Bay, which means we can reach people throughout the whole community. This includes children who may not see Prevea Pediatricians and who do not benefit from the ROR program in the clinic setting. It also offers families in the community something fun and educational to do, especially during the winter months in Wisconsin!

Prevea Pediatrics and the mall tried to find a way to incorporate story telling along with play time. Knowing how active children can be and that sometimes sitting still for a story is a challenge, we decided it would be a good idea to add some structured play to these events. This would give the children a chance to get their wiggles out before the story. Then, we could settle right in the middle of the play area to read several books.

Prevea Read and Play

We decided to call the event Prevea Read and Play, featuring our pediatricians or child life specialists reading books for the storytime portion. I find it important for the pediatricians to participate in the reading, in part, because it’s just fun to do, but also because I think it magnifies the message of how important reading is when parents see a doctor taking time out of their day to read to children. It also takes us out of the clinical setting and more into the real world of these families and shows them again that reading is a key part of childhood development. I also feel it’s important for children to know that reading is fun and exciting, so this is one more way to keep them interested in new stories.

As of now, this is a monthly program and the community response has been very positive. I participated in our most recent story time in March, around the time of Dr. Seuss Week. After doing some movement activities with the children at the play area, I read two Dr. Seuss stories to about a dozen children of various ages. Some of them had heard the stories before and were eager to chime in about trying Green Eggs and Ham or capturing Thing 1 and Thing 2. We were also able to take a moment to talk about trying different foods because you just might like them, like at the end of Green Eggs and Ham. I was very impressed with the children’s level of attention during my reading. They were all very engaged, even the younger ones who may not have been as interested in these longer stories.

The parents also seemed to enjoy watching storytime and taking a break from chasing their children around the play area. Some of the people attending this Read and Play were repeat visitors who knew about the storytime, but many happened to be passing by and stopped or were pleasantly surprised when they came to play.

After we finished reading, our child life specialist led the children on a fun scavenger hunt through the play area to get them up and moving again. They were able to find various objects like a teddy bear or a stethoscope. Then, they each were rewarded with a certificate and a ROR bookmark to finish up our Prevea Read and Play event. Literature was also available for the parents regarding the ROR program and our Prevea Pediatricians.

Overall, it was a very fun morning at the mall and another great way to expand reading farther into our community. I do think seeing reading in action from a physician sends a great message to our families and I am glad ROR has given us even more encouragement to send that message.

Information table at Prevea Read and Play with information about Reach Out and Read and Prevea Health
Information table at Prevea Read and Play

Fan mail for Reach Out and Read Wisconsin

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.

Grandmother and small child reading together
Karen’s mother and daughter reading together at a 1st birthday celebration.

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.

Child sharing book in classroom
Karen’s daughter sharing a favorite book with her first grade class.

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

Four things successful Reach Out and Read programs do

As a project coordinator who has visited more than 90 Reach Out and Read (ROR) clinics in Wisconsin, I am always impressed by our clinics’ commitment to early literacy and their fidelity to the ROR model. Our team is grateful to the more than 200 clinics in the state, who on top of their already numerous responsibilities have embraced ROR and are committed to the success of their youngest patients.

After completing these visits, I have noticed there are a few things that high performing clinics do. Some of these are obvious, like having adequate funding or staff who are engaged. But what separates the highest performing clinics? Below are four things I have consistently seen successful clinics doing.

Leveraging their local community

If you attended our annual meeting last year, this was a key message. Even in the smallest communities clinics can work with local groups and town residents to help the clinic’s ROR program thrive. Groups and places of business that have worked with ROR Wisconsin programs in the past include:

  • Public libraries
  • Technical colleges
  • National Honor Society clubs
  • Literacy councils
  • Lions clubs
  • Rotary groups

Even if your clinic does not have a library or adult literacy organization in town, promoting the nearest option is still a good idea. Check out Wisconsin Literacy’s map to find an adult literacy program near you.

Collaborating with community organizations and individuals is key to building strategic partnerships. It is likely you will find the work your clinic is doing through ROR accomplishes a goal that many community members share; giving every child a good start and providing tools they will need to succeed in the future.

Working with community members also creates buy-in for your ROR program. Collaboration will build awareness in the community for your clinic’s positive work surrounding early literacy and school readiness.

Talking about ROR and its impact

Clinics with successful ROR programs frequently talk about the program, reading aloud and the positive impact on brain and child development. Whether during provider or medical assistant meetings, through internal or external newsletters, the local newspaper or on social media, successful clinics share their ROR story and the impact it has on local children and families.

Reading to kids
Reading aloud to children at the local library or in the clinic is a great way to generate enthusiasm for the program

A few examples:

  • Monroe clinics showcased Reach Out and Read in their Summer 2017 Health Smart newsletter on the front page and with a full page article.
  • Northlakes clinics in Northern Wisconsin promoted their commitment to literacy through an article their AmeriCorp volunteer wrote, which highlighted their ROR program
  • Clinicians read aloud during library story time
  • Even the most experienced ROR clinics benefit from talking about ROR at staff meetings

ROR is part of the clinic’s routine

The obvious answer here is eliminating workflow issues. In order for a ROR program to work well, it has to be kept simple. Follow these tips to avoid common workflow issues:

  • Store books near exam rooms or nurse’s station
  • When possible, do not keep books in a locked office or cabinet
  • If providers are forgetting to give the book or talk to families about reading aloud, add it as a SmartPhrase in Epic
  • If your clinic does not use an electronic medical record system, place the book outside the exam room in a clear plastic bag or install small baskets outside the door
  • When your book distribution is low, use a tracking sheet and tally it more regularly. Instead of just counting once every six months, count weekly or monthly (depending on patient volume). It will be easier to identify problems, if tallies are counted more frequently.

Engaging as many of the clinic staff as possible

At every clinic there will always be certain people who are champions of early literacy and ROR.  However, clinics that are successful and get the most out of the program engage a wide variety of staff. A few ideas to get more staff involved:

  • When ordering books ask the medical providers which books they enjoy or their patients seem to enjoy.
  • If your clinic is collecting gently-used books, have a drop-off point at the reception desk and ask the staff there to sort the books, using ROR guidelines.
  • Some clinic’s reception staff help by creating the literacy-rich environment in the waiting room or by keeping a literacy bulletin board updated.
  • Keep literacy stickers at the reception desk for children to get after their visits.
  • Ask building maintenance to build shelving units for your literacy-rich environment, like the clinic in Minong did. 
  • Ask volunteers to build a Little Free Library like UW Health Oregon did this past spring.

    Sauk Prairie Healthcare Lodi Clinic waiting room which the reception staff created and helps maintain

    What does your clinic do to make your ROR program successful? Share your tips in the comment section below.

Reach Out and Read Wisconsin’s newest addition

Welcome to the newest addition to Reach Out and Read Wisconsin, our new blog, “Books Build Better Brains.” Through this platform we plan to offer tips, tools and resources for anyone looking to encourage reading and early learning in our youngest children.

The tagline Books Build Better Brains was created years ago by our Medical Director, Dipesh Navsaria, MPH, MSLIS, MD. We believe it is the perfect blog title because reading books aloud positively impacts everything from language and socio-emotional development and school readiness, to buffering against toxic stress and fostering healthy relationships.

While our early literacy program is implemented in primary care medical clinics (you can read more about our program here) we are excited about our ability to use this venue to expand our audience. Early literacy and learning is not limited to only one environment. Learning language and developing literacy skills, the building blocks of kindergarten readiness, can happen anywhere; during breakfast, in the car, while grocery shopping or in your doctor’s office. Our goal is to empower and support parents and families in their role as a child’s first teacher.

Our blog will provide a variety of resources, including tips for reading aloud with young children and ways to make learning fun. We will share firsthand accounts from clinics and their medical staff about why they enjoy working with Reach Out and Read. We will analyze timely research and relevant data in the fields of early brain and child development so you are equipped with knowledge to support early learning wherever and whenever you can make it happen. We look forward to introducing you to many of our partners across the state and the nation who inspire our work every day.

We love our collaboration with the Appleton Public Library and thank their physician liaison, Abbey Unruh for this book list. This list is helpful for clinics when ordering books or for families visiting their local public library. We plan on sharing other book lists like this in the future. We hope you find a title to share as a bedtime story tonight.

Favorite books to read aloud for ages birth to 5 years