My AmeriCorps HealthCorps experience

Since September 11, 2017, I have been serving a full AmeriCorps term with the Children’s Health Alliance of Wisconsin. This is my first experience fully submerging myself into public health. Although I have only been here a short time, I have gained valuable insight on how to S.U.C.C.E.E.D. in the public health field.

 Support

My term with AmeriCorps has been a transition. There’s been a considerable learning curve as I’ve taken all the skills I learned in the classroom and put them to use. The shift to full independent living and the stress of graduate school applications has made it challenging at times. This has taught me the true importance of support. I am not just talking about the support you give and receive from interpersonal relationships, but also the support you give yourself. I realized that our professional and personal lives will inevitably intertwine and the effects can be depleting. When you aren’t supporting yourself in one area, you will always feel it in another. It is important to be able to recognize how you’re feeling physically and emotionally, and create a game plan to either sustain the positive environment or change the circumstances. A phrase I have truly started to embody is: “self-care is healthcare.”

Unconventional

Here at Children’s Health Alliance of Wisconsin, we have seven initiatives. That means there is always a lot going on! We not only support existing statewide programs, but we also work to create new perspectives on children’s health issues. We know public health works to create systems change. In order to create that change, we need individuals who think inside, outside and all around the box. Don’t be afraid to take the leap and explore ideas that may seem too unconventional. Sometimes radical ideas ignite our success.

 Coalition Creation

The Alliance serves as a table where federal, state and local stakeholders can gather and discuss the health issues children are facing in Wisconsin. If I have learned anything from my time in this position, it is that public health success relies on strong relationships. Coalition creation is the key to getting things done. Coalitions need interdisciplinary professionals to meet the needs of every problem. Once established, coalitions require integrity and accountability to sustain over time.

 Exceed Expectations

My last two points go hand in hand. The first is to exceed expectations. Going beyond what is expected will never go unnoticed and it’s appreciated by all those involved. When you produce good work, you feel prepared and confident, which creates a positive work environment. Always ask how you can do better and if you can do more.

Detail

The final thing I’ve learned is the importance of detail. Detail is everything! When planning an event, it is so important to have every detail checked multiple times. When attention to detail is a priority, events run smoothly. This has become evident while working with our Reach Out and Read Wisconsin team. One of my responsibilities is to coordinate state legislators’ visits to our Reach Out and Read clinics. Paying attention to details during planning has made state leaders more informed and helped them make decisions that positively impact children.

One of my favorite parts about being an AmeriCorps member at the Alliance has been working with our state’s amazing Reach Out and Read team! They are an inspiration to me and I am always amazed at the work they accomplish with such a small but mighty staff. If it was not for their positive support and guidance, I would not have been able to put together four successful legislative visits. Some of the best moments have been watching our state leaders engage with books and children. The smiles on everyone’s faces are a reminder of why Reach Out and Read is such an impactful program.

Interview with author Julie Bowe

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.

headshot of children's author Julie Bowe for interview post

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