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.
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
Summer is here and what better way to start off this season of sun, fun and hopefully some relaxing time spent reading than by attending a literacy event in your area? Check out the information below for local Wisconsin events happening in June and July. If you don’t see an event in your area, be sure to check out your local library’s website as they often have many summer reading programs for both kids and adults.
Please note: use arrows below table to scroll to the right for more information.
I really don’t know what possessed me to become an Appleton police officer after graduating from UW-Madison with a degree in sociology. Little did I know when I retrieved the police officer job posting from the garbage can and applied for the position, my life would forever change. Thus began my 11 year odyssey in law enforcement. My first seven years were spent as a patrol officer. I then decided to specialize in juvenile law and sensitive crimes. The last three years of my career were spent in a local Division 1 high school where even a seasoned officer got an eye-full of serious teen problems. There were the regular thefts, fights and car accidents in the school parking lot; but, who would have guessed the amount of truancy, illegal drugs, teen pregnancy, suicide attempts and more that I frequently encountered.
The power of reading first-hand
By the time I had one little boy and another on the way, I made the decision to leave law enforcement to stay home with my boys. My boys are in college now and I miss having their fat cheeks to kiss.
My favorite thing to do with my boys was to read to them. We all loved it. I would bring armfuls of picture books home from the library. One of my boys would sit for long periods of time focused on our books. The other was busy with toys as he listened, but he did listen. After everything I had seen as a police officer, I knew my boys were lucky. Some of you might be thinking, “Well, that’s what mom’s do. What’s the big deal?”
To be perfectly honest, I thought I was just doing what comes naturally. I was wrong. Adults don’t just naturally “know” their relationships with their children, and shared activities like talking, singing, reading, writing (scribbling qualifies) and playing are so critical to everything in life that comes after. Parents learn how to do this, by observation and learning at some point in their own life. But not all parents have had this behavior modeled for them. It would be great if every child in the world grew up in this type of environment. It would be ideal if parents themselves had these secure, healthy experiences during childhood so they were confident in their abilities to read aloud and felt empowered as their child’s first teacher.
When I look back, everything in my life led me to become a children’s librarian. Many people chuckle, scratch their head and ask, “Why would you do that?” or “That’s kind of a radical career change, isn’t it?” I smile and occasionally tell people that it makes perfect sense to me. I am now in the business of crime prevention. I became a librarian for many reasons, but that is one of the outcomes of my work now.
I have always loved young people and wanted to make a difference in their lives. I want to help them stay on the path to happy, healthy and productive lives. Of course, the factors that lead people down different life paths are varied and complicated. I was never under the illusion that I would save the world after I earned my master’s degree in Library and Information Science, but I hope I can contribute and make a difference.
The evidence is clear. Reading to children helps them develop print awareness, vocabulary and letter identification as well as letter sound recognitions. It also helps children learn to tell stories from beginning to end. These skills are all necessary before reading can begin. Unfortunately, the achievement gap starts early. Love of reading must be learned at an early age and failure to instill a love of reading can impair long-term interest in learning. Over half of all parents don’t read to their children every night. The percentage gets higher for families living in poverty.
Reading difficulty contributes to school failure, truancy, school dropout, juvenile delinquency, substance abuse and teenage pregnancy. Here are some staggering figures:
Seventy percent of all incarcerated adults cannot read at a 4th grade level
Eighty-five percent of children in the juvenile court system are functioning at a low literacy level
The cost of incarceration in the United States is estimated to be between 80 billion and one trillion dollars each year
However, every $1.00 we invest in quality early childhood programs, society gets back $4 – $9. Even if you look at the situation from a purely economic standpoint, investment in quality early learning programs makes sense. Through programs like Reach Out and Read (ROR) we can provide children in our communities with an evidence-based and scalable program that helps start children off on the right track in life.
The wonderful thing about ROR is that it reaches so many families with small children. Who do you think is best equipped to influence parents’ child rearing practices….a librarian, a teacher or a physician? I think we all know the answer to that. When doctors talk, we listen. Here in the Fox Cities, the United Way, public libraries and area health systems are all pulling together to expand ROR throughout the region. Our goal is to have all potential well-child visit sites in the Fox Cities implementing ROR by the end of 2018. It’s spreading fast. I think we’ll reach our goal.
Please give all children a fair chance in life and support quality early childhood education programs like Reach Out and Read.
Since 2015, the Appleton Public Library (APL) has partnered with the Fox Cities’ medical community and all local public libraries in an effort to expand local participation in Reach Out and Read (ROR). APL is recognized by ROR National Center as a community partner in the support and expansion of Reach Out and Read. These efforts have been granted the designation, ROR Partners – Fox Cities. This group works closely with ROR Wisconsin staff to achieve its goals and maintain high quality program standards.
The ongoing work of ROR Partners – Fox Cities is made possible through an innovative grant from the United Way Fox Cities, which is the result of generous support from community donors.
The Fox Cities’ community keeps the child the focus of this unique effort. With the goal of reaching every child in the Fox Cities through a regional effort, ROR Partners – Fox Cities works together to encourage parents to read aloud daily to their infants, toddlers and preschoolers. Daily reading aloud is a simple and effective way of fostering nurturing, language-rich family interactions that support brain development and provide a foundation for success.
So how has this unique, regional collaboration impacted the growth of ROR in the Fox Cities’ community? During the past 2 years:
More than 21,000 books have been handed out to children ages 6 months to 5 years during their well-visits
92 healthcare providers have been trained in early literacy promotion and have been encouraging and supporting parents as their child’s first and most important teacher
13 medical clinics have launched their own ROR programs
Eight public libraries support their closest ROR clinic by keeping them stocked with gently-used books, providing library programming information, and overall literacy support
Five major health systems and multiple independent clinics are currently working together to secure long-term funding for the work of ROR Partners – Fox Cities
Four local businesses have supported the ROR efforts by hosting very successful internal book drives
Two literacy-rich environments have been created at medical clinics to be used as examples in the community of what a literacy-rich waiting room or child’s reading area could look like
Since the collaboration began, ROR Partners – Fox Cities’ providers and families have been surveyed annually. This survey tracks changes in the behaviors and attitudes towards reading as well as to maintain fidelity to the ROR model.
During the next 18 months of the innovative grant, a committee will work to ensure ROR Partners – Fox Cities remains active in the community for years to come.
Is your community interested in launching a similar effort? Here are a few tips:
Engage a healthcare provider who is also deeply invested in our youth and has a love of reading. They can help you champion the program in the community
Involve your local public library! They understand the importance of early literacy and may be able to partner with you
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.