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.

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.

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.

A day with the Reach Out and Read Wisconsin staff

With more than 210 Reach Out and Read (ROR) programs statewide our three staff, plus our medical director, stay busy. Whether we are visiting clinics, fundraising, giving presentations or assisting in building community partnerships, we are committed to promoting early literacy throughout Wisconsin.

ROR Wisconsin is a state affiliate of the national ROR organization. Since 2010, our office has helped launch more than 155 programs. We help clinics start their program, provide ongoing support (fundraising and technical assistance), quality assurance and books. However, working with clinics is just one piece of what we do.

Karin Mahony, MEd, MSW, Project Manager

Karin Mahony, our project manager, oversees all aspects of our work and is our resident fundraiser. Working with staff in our foundation office, she applies for grants, meets with potential and current funders, searches for new funding opportunities and provides book support to clinics in Wisconsin. If you have ever been to one of our annual meetings and had the chance to attend her fundraising breakout session, you will quickly learn why she has been so successful over the last seven years. Karin knows it is more than raising money, it is about building relationships with donors and organizations. She tells the story of ROR Wisconsin in a compelling and motivating way. “When I first started at ROR Wisconsin I had enough funds for my salary and some for clinics, everything else I had to fundraise for.” Our ability to grow our team while also becoming the seventh largest affiliate in the country, is proof of her success.

Project Manager Karin Mahony reading a book for her monthly book club
Karin reading for her monthly book club

Dipesh Navsaria, MPH, MSLIS, MD, Medical Director

Dipesh Navsaria is many things; a pediatrician, occasional children’s librarian, associate professor of pediatrics at UW Health’s School of Medicine and Public Health, child health advocate and founding medical director of ROR Wisconsin. Regardless of all these roles, on a weekly basis Dr. Navsaria travels around the state and country giving presentations about the importance of reading for brain development. He is a tireless advocate and promoter of our work and one of the reasons we believe our number of participating clinics has risen so quickly. He engages, motivates and educates people about how setting aside time each day to read aloud will have a positive, lasting impact.  For these presentations, he directs all honorariums to ROR Wisconsin, which provides us with unrestricted funds we can use for program supplies and special projects.

Medical Director Dipesh Navsaria speaking at a local event
Dipesh Navsaria, MPH, MSLIS, MD speaking at a Wisconsin Medical Society event

Amber Bloom, MSW, CAPSW, Project Coordinator

Amber Bloom, joined our team in January 2017. Amber works in the Children’s Health Alliance of Wisconsin Milwaukee office and assists clinics in the eastern part of the state. She conducts site visits, helps clinics wanting to develop new programs and manages our quality assurance efforts. She analyzes and prepares data from the parent literacy orientation survey to share with participating clinics. The purpose of this survey is to show any change in parents’ literacy behaviors after their clinic starts a ROR program. This data is then shared with clinics at site visits to show their impact within the community.

Amber’s background is in child welfare and she says, “I really appreciate the aspect of prevention that ROR provides. It offers families the opportunity to thrive through creating a nurturing environment at home, building parent skills and getting children ready for success in school. I’m glad to have a part in making those things happen.

young girl and parent reading aloud

 

Recent photo of Amber Bloom
Project Coordinator Amber Bloom MSW, CAPSW

Alex Rogers, Project Coordinator

Alex Rogers, joined the ROR team in January 2016 and works with clinics in the central part of the state, assisting with the application process and providing ongoing support. She also manages our marketing and communications, particularly with the launch and operation of this blog. She oversees our social media posts, annual program update and email campaigns. Each fall, she plans and organizes the annual meeting as an opportunity for ROR clinics and early literacy advocates to come together for education and networking. Alex enjoys working for ROR Wisconsin because it combines her love of reading and desire to help improve everyday life for children and families.

young girl reading in laundry basket

 

 

girl with favorite children's book Corduroy
Project Coordinator Alex Rogers “reading” when she was young and more recently with her favorite children’s book, Corduroy

ROR Wisconsin is the early literacy initiative of Children’s Health Alliance of Wisconsin, which is affiliated with Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. Being part of this larger organization not only provides us with infrastructure funding, but support in communications, graphic design, website, data analysis and strategic planning. All this allows our staff to devote the majority of our time to the programmatic needs of our clinics.

Bob’s Discount Furniture gives generous donation to Reach Out and Read

On Feb. 1, 2018 Reach Out and Read (ROR) Wisconsin hosted an event in Madison, Wisconsin to highlight the ongoing support of Bob’s Discount Furniture to Reach Out and Read. During the event Cathy Poulin, Bob’s Discount Furniture public relations and outreach director, dressed up as Cat in the Hat. She read aloud from the book Oh, the Things You Can Do That Are Good For You by Tish Rabe to a group of preschoolers from the Waisman Center’s Early Childhood Program.  

Bob's Discount Furniture public relations director Cathy Poulin reads aloud at an event to a group of preschoolers as Cat in the Hat
Bob’s Discount Furniture public relations and outreach director, Cathy Poulin reads aloud to a group of preschoolers at the Waisman Early Childhood Program

Prior to the classroom reading, Ms. Poulin presented a $25,000 donation to ROR National Center, in Boston. ROR Wisconsin’s medical director and National Center board of director’s member, Dipesh Navsaria, MPH, MSLIS, MD accepted the check on behalf of ROR National Center. 

Bob's Discount Furniture generously donates $25,000 to Reach Out and Read
Reach Out and Read Wisconsin medical director and National Center board of directors member Dipesh Navsaria, MPH, MSLIS, MD accepts Bob’s Discount Furniture’s donation on behalf of ROR National Center

Bob’s Discount Furniture also donated 100 copies of Tish Rabe’s book, 100 fleece blankets and boxes of Cat in Hat-style hats to the American Family Children’s Hospital. In addition, Bob’s Discount Furniture donated $1,200 in gift cards to ROR Wisconsin clinics to be used to assist clinics in developing literacy-rich waiting rooms.

Thank you

Thank you Bob’s Discount Furniture for the generous donations to ROR National Center, American Family Children’s Hospital and ROR Wisconsin. We hope the Cat in the Hat comes back to visit Madison again!