Providing Diverse and Inclusive Books at Reach Out and Read Clinics

This year, Reach Out and Read Wisconsin is placing a renewed focus on the importance of representation, diversity, and inclusion in the books clinics order for their well-child visits. To accomplish this goal, we are working on many levels:

  • Serving on the Reach Out and Read National Center book committee to voice our desire to increase the options for more affordable, diverse books for clinics to order
  • Providing book recommendations in our bi-weekly newsletter that celebrate and create diverse readers
  • Fundraising for the Windows and Mirrors initiative
  • Sharing resources like the Diverse and Inclusive book list from Reach Out and Read and the American Academy of Pediatrics
  • Ongoing conversations at Reach Out and Read Wisconsin site visits about the importance of  ordering a variety of books even if your primary patient population is English speaking and White.

Group Health Cooperative of South Central Wisconsin has already taken this mission to heart and is providing diverse books to all families served at it’s six Madison-area clinics. Recently, one of their providers, Megan Gendel, NP, and system’s Reach Out and Read coordinator shared why ordering diverse books was important to them, even though most of the population they serve is predominantly White and English speaking.

“As a provider here, I really feel it’s important for us to make sure we have diversity in books, actually even more important in some respects so our families and our children that we serve are seeing different aspects of life through literature,” said Gendel.

They also shared some tips for ordering diverse books:

  • The clinic coordinator may not always know the families being seen in the clinic. Ask the providers about the family dynamics. For instance, ordering books that show kids being raised by grandparents, stepparents, single parents, gay and lesbian parents, are refugees or are part of mixed-race families.
  • Share bilingual books with English speaking families as well. Celebrate the joy of other cultures.
  • Be mindful of gender stereotypes when ordering books. Some favorite classics (and even some new books) may not best reflect current trends.

The full webinar can be accessed here.

Books are a wonderful tool that allow kids to see themselves in the story while also providing opportunities to learn about others and their experiences. We believe all kids should be represented in books and have the opportunity to learn empathy and kindness for others via the books clinics provide.

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