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

Reach Out and Read Wisconsin’s first legislative visit of 2019

On April 22, the ThedaCare Physicians Pediatrics Neenah clinic hosted a legislative visit with State Representative Mike Rohrkaste. During the visit, Rep. Rohrkaste learned about Reach Out and Read Wisconsin and read aloud to a group of children from the Neenah and Menasha communities. The children’s excitement was evident as the representative read From Head to Toe while they acted out the actions described on each page. 

Wisconsin state representative Rohrkaste reads aloud at medical clinic
Rep. Rohrkaste reading aloud from Dog Breath: The Horrible Trouble with Hally Tosis.
Wisconsin state representative Rohrkaste with children and families at ThedaCare clinic
Rep. Rohrkaste with children and parents after the reading
Rep Rohrkaste and Reach Out and Read Wisconsin staff and partners including Appleton Public Library
Reach Out and Read Wisconsin community partners, including United Way Fox Cities and Appleton Public Library, were also in attendance

Following the reading, Dr. Eileen Jekot, the clinic’s Reach Out and Read medical champion, led Rep. Rohrkaste on a tour of the clinic. Dr. Jekot talked about the program’s positive impact on her patients and their families, and how it has changed the way she practices medicine for the better. Since 2016, the ThedaCare Physicians Pediatrics Neenah clinic has given more than 7,300 books to children ages 6 months through 5 years.

Reach Out and Read Wisconsin is grateful for the opportunity to bring together legislators, the medical community and community organizations to promote, educate and engage around early literacy and children’s health.

Reach Out and Read Wisconsin welcomes national medical director Perri Klass, MD

Reach Out and Read national medical director Perri Klass, MD, recently visited Madison, Wisconsin to give a presentation to Reach Out and Read Wisconsin supporters and stakeholders. During this talk at the Madison Central Library, Dr. Klass emphasized the importance of using books to promote healthy brain development in young children. One of the ways reading aloud supports brain development is through the parent-child relationship. “If we want to promote healthy child development in the early years, then we have to promote that parent-child relationship,” said Dr. Klass.

Books aid in the development of the parent-child relationship because they spark back-and-forth conversations. These conversational turns are what form connections in babies’ brains. Even young babies who are not themselves talking yet, show signs of engagement when these back-and-forth interactions are happening. Examples of this include, smiling at a book or the parent, looking at the pictures, reaching out to grab the book, trying to turn pages, cooing or babbling along with the story, or even trying to put the book in their mouth.

When parents read aloud they are not only helping foster brain development but development in all kinds of areas, like math, language, vocabulary, socio-emotional, school readiness and attachment.

Dr. Perri Klass presents at Madison Public Library about the importance of books and reading aloud for healthy child development
Dr. Perri Klass shares the importance of books and reading aloud to an audience of Reach Out and Read Wisconsin supporters and stakeholders.

Screen time

Dr. Klass also shared her thoughts about screen time and e-readers. She recommended physical books for newborns and children younger than age 2. Physical books allow babies to touch, feel, learn how to turn pages and put books in their mouths – all of which are appropriate developmental milestones for young children. Screens and enhanced e-books (stories that make sounds when tapped or have animations) can be distracting for young babies. New research shows that when e-readers are used, the number of conversational turns and back-and-forth interactions between parents and children decrease. Dr. Klass recently wrote about this new research in her weekly New York Times column.

When kids are older, using electronic reading devices can help them gain access to a wide range of information. However, it is still important for parents to provide supervision and make time for reading physical books aloud together.  

Reach Out and Read Wisconsin would like to thank Dr. Perri Klass for sharing her time and expertise. Also, thank you to the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters and the Madison Public Library for co-presenting this event. To learn more about Reach Out and Read Wisconsin and how to support us our work, please visit our website.

Children’s books that make great gifts

Toys, games, electronics — there are so many options when it comes to kids’ gifts during the holiday season. However, one of the best gifts you can give is a book. Books open the door to new ideas and they can teach kids important lessons about empathy, diversity and kindness. A book is a low-cost gift that can build stronger parent-child relationships and they can be enjoyed over and over again.

With so many options available for children’s books, we curated this list to take some of the guesswork out of purchasing a great book this holiday season.

* Reach Out and Read Wisconsin does not endorse or support any particular author, title or publisher.

I'm Learning Letters

Picture 1 of 9

Recommended ages: 6-18 months

This board book is dominated by large, colorful pictures. Coupled with minimal text, it’s a great book to engage young eyes and start conversations between the reader and child as they point to pictures associated with different letters of the alphabet.

Buy from Books4School

Want to read these books but don’t want to buy them all? Check out your local library for copies.

Thanks to Appleton Public Library, Books4School, Dr. Deirdre Burns and Susan Golz for their recommendations. Do you have other titles to add to this list? Comment below!

Reach Out and Read Wisconsin Advisory Council Member spotlight: Family Physician Wendy Molaska, MD, FAAFP

The Reach Out and Read (ROR) Wisconsin Advisory Council is made up of 14 individuals from across the state who support our early literacy work. The Advisory Council includes, doctors, community leaders and business owners. These members all have a connection to and passion for literacy and the lifelong benefits programs like ROR provide. For a full list of our advisory council members, visit our website.  

Our first member spotlight is one of our Advisory Council co-chairs, Wendy Molaska. Wendy is a family physician who has served on our council since ROR Wisconsin started in 2010. Prior to joining the Advisory Council, Wendy used ROR during her residency. She continues to use the program today as the ROR medical consultant for UW Health Cottage Grove. Now a mother of two, Wendy tries to find time every day to read aloud with her kids.

Mom reading with two childrendoctor dressed up as cat in the hat

What is your background?

I am a family medicine physician working in Cottage Grove, Wisconsin. Originally from Wisconsin, I went to undergrad and medical school at the University of Wisconsin. I was first introduced to ROR when I started residency at the University of Minnesota working in an underserved inner-city clinic. When I moved to rural Colorado, my clinic there did not have a ROR program so I started a program. I then moved back to rural Wisconsin and again my clinic did not have a ROR program. By now, I couldn’t imagine practicing without the program, so I did all the fundraising myself and started yet another ROR program at my clinic in Platteville. Shortly after I started my program ROR Wisconsin started and I was honored to be asked to join the Advisory Council.

What are your favorite or funniest memories about reading as a child?

My dad would often read my brother and I bedtime stories. But before he started the book he would always tell his own version of a fairy tale. So we listened to Mac and the Cornstalk and Little Red Riding Hood. Except that in his version, Little Red Riding Hood was crossing the road and ‘Vrooom!’ a big Mack truck came and ran her over and that’s the end of the story! Then my brother and I would yell and complain say, “Daaad! That’s not a real story!” So then he’d be forced to read our book of the night.

If you have children, do you read aloud with them? How did you incorporate reading into your routine?

I have two young children and am a proud Reach Out and Read mama, as my kids love to read! We started reading to them as soon as they were born. We read before naps and bedtimes every day and whenever the kids want to read. They will often grab books during play times and bring them over to us to read. We went through periods where the kids would choose the same book over and over so I can still recite verbatim some of those books. Now they love to go to the library to pick out new books which means I get to read more variety. And it certainly is fun for the kids when they make me read The Book With No Pictures. “Glug, glug, glug, my face is a bug! I eat ants for breakfast right off the rug!

young girl reading and sleeping in the carpicture of young boy reading in the car and sleeping

How did you get involved with literacy promotion? Why is it important to you?

I first became involved with literacy promotion through the ROR program in residency. My residency clinic was an inner city clinic and the patient population faced a lot of adversity. It was also a diverse patient population with Spanish, Hmong and Somali languages being common, in addition to English. During that time I saw how important books were for the patients. I also learned how important it was to discuss how to use books in the home as many parents did not have confidence in their own reading abilities but did want their children to do well in school. It was in stark contrast to how I grew up, as I was surrounded by books and loved going to the Book Mobile to pick out new books. The joke among my relatives was that my nickname was “Nose-in-a-book” and they didn’t know what I looked like because my face was always stuck in a book. This helped propel me to want to share the magic of books with others.

What advice would you give parents about reading?

The most important thing I talk about with parents in my clinic is that reading is not just about actually reading the words on the page. This is especially true with young children. The most important part of reading is spending the time together enjoying each other’s company and enjoying books. That can mean making up stories based on the pictures, using the pictures to play ‘I spy’ or even just having the child point to different things on the page.

I also emphasize that toddlers have short attention spans so even if they only seem to sit and pay attention for a minute or two that is actually great.

For older kids, I discuss with parents that reading can entail all kinds of different options. As kids develop their own interests, reading can be tailored to those interests. If that means comic books, non-fiction, magazines or video game manuals – it still counts as reading!

Lastly, I encourage parents to lead by example whenever they can. Being able to see a parent reading is important to showing children that reading is important all throughout our lives!

young children reading together

What is your favorite children’s book? Why?

This is a difficult question to answer as there are so many great children’s books! I love Hippos Go Berserk by Sandra Boyton just because who wouldn’t love hippos going berserk!

Hippos_go_berserk book cover

I love The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. Any of his books are great, even if many are tongue twisters! But The Lorax has such a great underlying message about taking care of the earth that it is timeless.

the lorax book cover

And I love The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak because it makes my kids giggle when mom has to say “My best friend is a hippo named boo-boo butt!”

the book with no pictures book cover

What is the best book you’ve read recently?

A book I will never tire of and have read more than a dozen times,A Girl in the Limberlost book cover is A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter. This is more of a young adult book but the way it is written brings the imagery to life.

 

 

 

 

 

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert is how I imagine I would write if I wrote a novel, eat_pray_love book coverpoints in time, often centuries apart. and I could intimately relate to this book. My current favorite authors are Ken Follett as I love historical fiction and his long tomes span many years really drawing you into the lives of his characters. Kate Morton’s books are also outstanding. She has a unique way of weaving her stories together using perspectives from different

 

 

Lastly, I will recommend Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End Being mortal book coverby Atul Gwande. Most people don’t really understand what can happen at the end of life and this book really can provide perspective on what this can look like. As I always encourage my patients to have these difficult end-of-life discussions with their family and friends, this book helps the reader understand why these difficult conversations are important. Reading is the generally the last thing I do as I wind down my days.

 

And lucky for me, my ‘to read list’ continues to grow and grow.

New research links talking to babies with their IQ and verbal abilities 10 years later

By: Steve Hannon, president, LENA

LENA president Steve Hannon
LENA president Steve Hannon

We’re excited to share the results of a newly-published longitudinal study that researchers here at LENA have been working on for more than 10 years. The findings confirm that the amount of talk with adults that babies experience in the first three years of life is related to their verbal abilities and IQ in adolescence. Two-way conversations in the 18- to 24-month age range may be particularly important.

The paper, “Language Experience in the Second Year of Life and Language Outcomes in Late Childhood,” was published in the October 2018 edition of Pediatrics. Its conclusions affirm exactly the kind of work Reach Out and Read (ROR) is doing to educate families about the importance of early interaction and providing them with the tools to build early literacy.

“By showing that parent-child verbal interactions in early childhood predict critically important outcomes through age 14 years (∼10 years later), the authors of this study have made a major contribution to this topic, with strong implications for American Academy of Pediatrics policy and clinical practice recommendations,” Drs. Perri Klass, ROR’s medical director, and Dr. Alan L. Mendelsohn, ROR’s principal investigator, wrote in commentary for Pediatrics.

LENA photo of mom and baby and young boy in school

While it may seem intuitive that adults should talk with children, many people don’t realize just how important conversations actually are.   

For example, two other studies this year from Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology have shown that the amount of conversation children experience is related to changes in their brain structure and function. Additionally, other studies have indicated that language exposure is related to children’s brain processing speed, subsequent vocabulary acquisition and success transitioning to kindergarten.

Research also tells us that adults who talk with children the least tend to overestimate the most. That’s why LENA technology, which provides objective feedback, is a helpful tool. In the same way a pedometer provides objective feedback on how many steps you take each day, LENA helps caregivers get an accurate understanding of children’s language environments and identifies specific areas for growth.

To truly improve outcomes for children and make progress toward closing opportunity gaps, we must capitalize on the power of conversation to build babies’ brains.

If you’re interested in learning more about this important research, sign up to view a discussion with the lead researchers moderated by policy expert Shannon Rudisill. Click here for more information and to register.

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

Reach Out and Read Wisconsin Learning and Fundraising event

event invite for Reach Out and Read Wisconsin learning and fundraising event

Come learn about how early literacy builds a baby’s brain infrastructure, as well as economic implications for the well-being of our families, communities, and state.

On Sunday, Oct. 14, Reach Out and Read Wisconsin (ROR) advisory council members are hosting a friendraising and fundraising event. We want to increase awareness about how crucial early language exposure is to a child’s development and the link between high-quality, early intervention and future community economic health.

Join us and bring a friend or neighbor.

Dipesh Navsaria, MPH, MSLIS, MD founding ROR medical director and Dennis Winters, MS, chief economist for the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development will give a short presentation and a Q&A session.

The event space is generously being donated by Mary Morgan at 702 Writer Incubator.

Please RSVP to Michele Erikson by Oct. 12.

Can’t make it to the event but want to learn more about our work and impact? Please contact Alex Rogers. To donate to ROR Wisconsin, please click here.

Celebrate National Child Health Day!

Join Reach Out and Read Wisconsin on Monday, Oct. 1

Reach Out and Read Wisconsin staff with message bubble signs

In 1928, Congress created Child Health Day, a national observance bringing attention to the “fundamental necessity” of children’s health programs.

In the spirit of the first National Child Health Day, Children’s Health Alliance of Wisconsin is hosting a social media campaign to raise awareness for children’s health. You can show your support for kids by taking a photo and posting on Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag #ForKidsHealth. The individual or organization with the most creative photo will win a $25 gift card! See contest rules at www.chawisconsin.org.

To receive a free #ForKidsHealth message bubble sign, please complete the online request form by Sept. 14. If you would like additional signs for your clinic or partners, please contact ljensen@chw.org.

Thank you for your support and partnership as we work to improve children’s health and literacy in Wisconsin. Please follow Children’s Health Alliance of Wisconsin on Facebook and Twitter.

We look forward to seeing your photos on Oct. 1!

For Kids Health message bubble