Can journalists help “digital-native children” sort through fact from fiction?

A new term was coined in 2001─ digital natives. The term describes folks who have been familiar with information technology since childhood when social digital technologies came online. Major parts of their lives and daily activities are impacted by digital technologies, social interactions, friendships, civic activities, and hobbies. A digital native has never known any other way of life.[1]

Most of our children are digital natives. What does this mean for literacy?

Once a child is reading, there’s the critical component of comprehension (what’s the point of sounding out letters and words if you can’t understand what the words mean)? A growing challenge to comprehension is how to sort through fact vs. fiction. It’s not enough to tell your children that not everything they read, hear or see is true. How are children to sort fact from fiction when they’re bombarded on all fronts by information from the Internet?

There’s a group of folks whose profession depends on sorting through fact from fiction ─ journalists. Thankfully, some journalists are stepping up to bring tools of the trade to teachers and students through the News Literacy Project (NLP).[2] Established four years ago, the NLP is bringing seasoned journalists (active and retired) to middle and high school students and their teachers in 21 inner-city and suburban schools in the Washington, D.C. area, New York City, and Chicago. The aim is to teach students how to sort fact from fiction.

To understand why the timing of the NLP is so important for our “digital native” children, Allan Miller, president and CEO of the NLP, perhaps says it best.[3] “A century ago, Mark Twain said that a lie can get halfway around the world while truth is still putting on its shoes. In this hyperlinked information age, a lie can get all the way around the world and back while truth is still getting out of bed. There is so much potential here for misinformation, for propaganda, for spin, all of the myriad sources that are out there. More and more of the onus is shifting to the consumer.”[4]

While this is indeed a challenge for all consumers of information, this is particularly a challenge for children who are developing their critical thinking skills.[5]

How is the NLP trying to make a difference? The NLP enables journalists ─ print, broadcast and online reporters and editors, producers and photographers ─ to visit middle school and high school classrooms or participate in videoconferences with students via Skype. Their key message to students ─ seek verified information on any medium or platform. The journalists also offer a bag of tools to help teachers ─ English, social studies, history, government, humanities and journalism. Teachers use the NLP’s core curriculum for in-school and after-school uses including hands-on exercises for students. And teachers and students alike learn from personal stories from journalists, narrated videos and an online Learn Channel.[6]

“A core principle [of the NLP] is that students use the standards of quality journalism as a yardstick to measure all news and information.” The NLP’s resources for teachers and students are grounded in four key questions identified as “vital for an informed citizen in the digital age:

  • Why does news matter?
  • Why is the First Amendment protection of free speech so vital to American democracy?
  • How can students know what to believe?
  • What challenges and opportunities do the Internet and digital media create?”

The classroom curriculum addresses several issues germane to our information age. For example, students are challenged to identify whether a piece of news or information comes from a reliable source – whether news, spin, rumor, opinion, misinformation, advertising or propaganda. And students are encouraged to consider whether the information is credible and if so, should they share it with others? This seems like an especially useful process of scrutiny given the frequent sharing of “information” among adolescents on social media.

Journalists participating in the NLP are trained to develop presentations that focus on the project’s core concepts and how best to integrate their resources within existing  classroom curriculum and student grade levels.

The NLP continues to expand services. In fall 2014, new digital materials came online through the Center for News Literacy’s Digital Resource Center. Teachers and the public at large can now obtain resources in three categories useful to building a news literacy course for any grade level – and learning how to integrate them into an existing course:

  • News literacy materials: A search engine helps you find relevant, timely news literacy materials from an archive of 60,000+ digital files (searchable by concepts, material types, topics and more).
  • Interactive forums: You can connect with other news literacy educators and Center for News Literacy staff to discuss developments in the field and share anecdotes from classrooms.
  • Course building information: You can obtain documents, materials and help to start a news literacy course from other educators and administrators.

Our digital-native children are “air traffic controllers” ─facing heavy incoming traffic from tablets, smart phones, computer screens, video games, and television. It’s comforting to know that help is on the way from journalists, bringing their tools of the trade to help students learn how to sort through some of the traffic.

________

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_native

[2] Information for this blog comes from: http://www.thenewsliteracyproject.org/about/program

[3] The NLP is the brain child of Allan Miller, a former Los Angeles Times investigative reporter and Pulitzer Prize winner.

[4] http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/media-july-dec11-newsliteracy_12-13/

[5] http://www.thenewsliteracyproject.org/about/program

[6] The Learn Channel’s talks, lessons and other digital resources include topics such as how to search on Google and other search engines; how to do photo fact-checking in the digital age; and a consumer’s guide to sourcing in news reports.

 

Lisa Guernsey’s 13 minute TEDx Talk on the impacts of screen time on children

If you’re wondering why there’s growing concern about the impact of “screen time” on children, especially those under three, you may want to devote 13 minutes to watch a TEDx Talks[1]How the iPad affects young children, and what we can do about it (TEDxMidAtlantic, April 27, 214).

The speaker on the stage is Lisa Guernsey, Director of the New America Foundation’s Early Education Initiative. A decade ago she was a technology and education reporter for the New York Times. She also wrote a book on how media affects children (Screen Time: How Electronic Media — From Baby Videos to Educational Software — Affects Your Young Child).

If you’re not clicking right now to the Internet to listen to Lisa, here’s the gist of her remarks. As parents (and she is one), we should pay attention to how children understand the omnipresent screens in their lives─ iPADs, smart phones, computers and television. Lisa calls out some key questions she and others have about screen time: Will it affect children’s’ attention span? How will children come to understand the world around them through screens?

“Children see things a little differently than we do,” Lisa reminds us. She shares some compelling examples of how we know this from the research world. For example, research informs us that young children think that popcorn will come pouring out of a television if you turn it upside down when it’s showing popcorn on the screen. From this and other research we know that children up until about two and a half to three years old react to screen “reality” differently than older folks.[2]

Lisa says there are three “C’s” we should pay attention to in interacting with the screens in our children’s lives: content, context, and the children themselves.

  • There should be good content that children can learn from. The content should contain the same aspects we would seek in a good preschool teacher: 1) focuses on learning and engaging the child, 2) says things more than once (repeats messages) for more effective learning, 3) provides chances for pause to allow the child time to react to what is being said, and 4) contains no violence or aggression because young children often imitate what they see.
  • Context is about how the child is interacting with the media. The parent should engage with the child as the child engages with the media ─ to ask the child questions and explain what’s being presented.
  • Children is about how to interact with your own child, knowing the ways he/she reacts, taking into consideration the particular needs and interests of the child.

Lisa offers us an interesting idea for thought, in addition to her call for attention to the three C’s. What if every family had a media mentor, someone who could talk to our children about what they’re seeing? This could be a preschool teacher, child librarian, childcare provider, or even parent. Her thinking is, even if we follow the three Cs, by the time a child is around nine, screen time is all around them. It seems best then to put serious attention on managing this growing presence ─ to learn from media and apply this learning to the wider world.

While many commentators are calling right now for restricting screen time for children, especially under three years old, Lisa focuses on better managing the child-to-screen relationship to benefit learning. I take heart that a former technology and education news reporter who continues to write and think about media impacts on children’s’ lives – and indeed all our lives – thinks that we have a major force to be reckoned with – the media. And here we are with our own “screen” choices on this topic ─ able to view a free online presentation on a screen through TEDx Talks if your preference is audio/visual; or to read a blog on a website if your preference is reading for information. However we prefer to acquire information and share our thinking, it’s clear that screen time is an important ─ indeed a vital part of our “real” world.

I don’t know at what precise age children realize that popcorn is not going to come out of the television if you turn it upside down when popcorn is depicted on the screen, but it’s clearly our job to help them sort through what is in the screen and what is not. I’m a fan of Lisa’s three Cs: let’s focus on good screen content, the context for using screens well, and adapting to the needs and interests of our children. And if media mentors can help families make best use of the omnipresent screens in our world, I’m all for it.

_____

[1] From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TED_(conference): TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a global set of conferences run by the private non-profit Sapling Foundation, under the slogan “Ideas Worth Spreading.” TED’s early emphasis was technology and design but it has broadened its focus to include talks addressing a wide range of topics within the research and practice of science and culture, often through storytelling. Speakers are given a maximum of 18 minutes to present ideas in the most innovative and engaging ways they can. As of April 2014, over 1,700 talks were freely available on the website; and as of Nov. 2012, TED talks had been watched over one billion times worldwide. TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized though subject to certain rules and regulations.

[2] If you want to learn more about why folks are focusing on birth to 24-30 months in a child’s development, check out my blog from Dec. 27, 2913, “Looking into “screen” time for children ─ impacts on reading at: <http://www.zhousestories.com/screen-time-for-children%e2%94%80recommendations-from-too-small-to-fail-and-research-from-common-sense-media/>

The reading crisis ─ how state policy is targeting grade 3

If there’s a line in the sand for a child’s reading development — and there is – it’s the third grade. Compelling research advises us that children should be reading at grade level by the end of third grade.[1] If not, poor reading will impact their ability to successfully progress through school and meet future grade-level expectations that require basic reading skills for more complex learning to occur. Children unable to read at grade level by third grade are four times less likely to graduate from high school on time and at greater risk of dropping out of school. Bruce Atchison, director of early learning at the Education Commission of the States (ECS),[2] underscores the gravity of this problem: only “one-third of our nation’s children are meeting this academic milestone [reading at grade level by the end of third grade].” That means two-thirds are not.

What can state leaders (e.g., governors, state legislators, K-12 and higher education department chiefs and other education leaders) do to get the children in our states to be better readers? A new ECS report describes a key tool many states are using ─ policy.

In “Third-grade reading policies,”[3] ECS explains the statutory provisions in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia focused on early grade reading. While the aim of the report is to assist education policymakers and those committed to early childhood literacy to improve early reading success for all students in their states, parents and other caretakers of children should pay close attention to the policies in their state with a key question in mind: Does my state have policies around early childhood reading?[4]

Fueled by the seriousness of the “reading at grade level by grade 3″ issue, a number of states have recently passed policies requiring or recommending that school districts: 1) identify reading deficiencies through state or local assessments, 2) provide interventions for readers struggling in grades kindergarten through third grade, and/or 3) retain outgoing third graders not meeting grade-level expectations.

The ECS report notes that states should “take a comprehensive approach that begins with early, high-quality instruction and rapid, effective interventions.” This requires, of course, high-quality, well-trained teachers. Some states like Ohio and Connecticut are requiring teachers to pass an exam of principles of scientifically research-based reading instruction as a requirement for certification (licensure). This doesn’t mean the teachers can necessarily apply their knowledge effectively, but this seems like a good start.

How do the 50 states and the D.C. stack up on statutory provisions in three areas of action?

  • On identifying reading deficiencies, 35 states plus the D.C. require a reading assessment in at least one grade, pre-kindergarten through grade 3. The assessments are a mix of state-mandated and local school district approaches.
  • On providing interventions for struggling readers, 31 states plus the D.C. require or recommend that school districts offer some type of intervention or remediation for struggling readers for pre-kindergarten through grade 3. Some states require specific interventions; others let school districts choose from a list of suggested interventions.
  • On retaining outgoing third graders not meeting grade-level expectations in reading, 15 states plus the D.C. require holding back these students. Three additional states allow students to be retained based on a recommendation from a teacher, parent or school superintendent.

What are the key interventions to help struggling early readers? The ECS report lists eleven that states either require or recommend in policy:

  • assignment to an Academic Improvement Program (11 states)
  • assignment to a different teacher (6 states plus the D.C.)
  • implementation of a Home Reading Program (11 states)
  • online or computer-based instruction (4 states)
  • instruction outside of school hours including extended day and extended year (20 states plus the D.C.)
  • transition classes ─ multiple grade levels (4 states)
  • involvement of a Reading Specialist (6 states)
  • supplemental instruction during regular school hours (20 states)
  • individual or group tutoring (14 states plus the D.C.)
  • instruction tailored specifically to students’ need (12 states plus the D.C.)
  • summer school or summer reading program (18 states plus the D.C.)

If your child lives in a state that is not among the states with policy, should you be worried? At a minimum, you need to know where your child is at in terms of grade-level expectations in reading early. Only 23 states plus the D.C. require parental notification of a student’s reading need, interventions in place and, if applicable, the possibility a student may be retained. And not all states conduct reading assessments at the same times in a student’s reading development. For example, 29 states plus the D.C. call for reading assessments from kindergarten through grade 3 or from pre-kindergarten through grade 3; four states in grade 3; two states in grades 2-3; and one state in kindergarten and grade 2.

However frequently the reading assessments are conducted, it’s vital to understand where a child is at in reading development ─ and to know early so that appropriate interventions can be implemented.

The ECS report provides a good overview of how many states are trying to address through policy the line in the sand ─ the third grade reading crisis. Time will tell if these policies make a difference, if states in which these policies are enacted result in more children meeting the important milestone of reading at grade level by the end of third grade.

*    *   *    *

P.S.  The White House Summit on Early Education (Dec. 16th) included a focus on the importance of reading at grade level and the efforts of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading: Third Grade Reading Success Matters — <www.gradelevelreading.net>

_____

[1] Emily Workman, “Third-grade reading policies,” December 2014 <http://www.ecs.org/>

[2] Education Commission of the States was created by states, for states, in 1965. ECS tracks state policy trends in pre-kindergarten to postsecondary education and beyond; translates academic research; and as a nonpartisan organization provides unbiased advice and creates opportunities for state leaders (governors, state legislators, K-12 and higher education department chiefs, other education leaders) to learn from one another. See <http://www.ecs.org/>

[3] Emily Workman in ECS report, December 2014

[4] Check out your state’s info by reading the full ECS report: <http://www.ecs.org/clearinghouse/01/16/44/11644.pdf>

 

 

When kids can talk to Elmo & the Cookie Monster about reading

If your 5-year old could talk to Sesame Street’s Elmo or the Cookie Monster like he talks to Grandma on Skype, could he become a better reader? That’s what a new partnership between Sesame Workshop and ToyTalk is betting on.[1] And this partnership could open up new inroads in the use of speech recognition systems to advance literacy for all our children.

Here’s the idea: “conversational technology” could be used to develop literacy, especially at the preschool level. Sesame Workshop[2] and ToyTalk[3] announced plans a few weeks ago to sign a research partnership agreement to explore how to use conversational technology to teach preschool literacy. The result could be, Elmo and the Cookie Monster talking to your child in a two-way conversation like he talks to Grandma on Skype.

How did we get to this possibility and why is the Sesame Workshop/ToyTalk partnership in the literacy news?

The first part of the answer lies in “good news.” Speech recognition systems have truly come of age and could be a valuable, cost-effective tool to advance literacy development.

The second part of the answer lies in “bad news.” Half of our nation’s fourth graders are unable to read at a basic level (National Assessment of Educational Progress report on reading for 2011); and only one in three U.S. students is able to read and understand grade-level material ─ unfortunately across all school grades.

So researchers are continuously on the hunt for ways to advance child literacy. Folks such as Marilyn Jager Adams, visiting professor in the Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences Department at Brown University, and longtime participant in NAEP’s committees in reading, believe that speech recognition technology can and should be used to advance early childhood literacy.[4] The approach would include developing speech-recognition-based reading software for our schools. This is not a far-fetched idea.

Automatic speech recognition is more than 20 years old and commonplace in many industry sectors. Medical and law professionals use voice recognition to dictate notes and transcribe information. Newer uses include military applications, navigation systems, automotive speech recognition, ‘smart’ homes designed with voice-command devices, and gamers interacting via voice commands with video games. Automatic speech recognition is used for telephone call-routing and directory assistance, captioning live TV to permit viewing in noisy places, enabling folks to talk to their computers and mobile phones via voice command (to issue commands and ask devices to transcribe voice mail and send written copies to email).

Speech recognition systems are not, however, widely in use in education. And where they are playing a role, the focus seems to be on assisting children with disabilities ─ not all children. The National Center for Technology Innovation, for example, identifies a range of populations that may benefit from speech recognition technologies:1) learning disabilities, including dyslexia and dysgraphia; 2) repetitive strain injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome; 3) poor or limited motor skills; 4) vision impairments; 5) physical disabilities; and 6) limited English Language.[5] No doubt, some of the 50% of the nation’s poor fourth grade readers fall within some of these named populations. Many do not.

The Center identifies numerous benefits for these populations from speech recognition technologies: improved access to the computer, increases in writing production, improvements in writing mechanics, increased independence, decreased anxiety around writing, and improvements in core reading and writing abilities. Specifically for the latter, the Center explains how speech recognition tools assist students with learning disabilities in reading and writing: “In allowing students to see the words on screen as they dictate, students can gain insight into important elements of phonemic awareness, such as sound-symbol correspondence. As students speak and see their words appear on the screen, the speech-to-text tool directly demonstrates the relationship between how a word looks and sounds.” This, the Center notes, can be especially helpful for students with learning disabilities and effective in remediating reading and spelling deficits.

The Center calls out another benefit of speech recognition technologies ─ in the “error correction process.” Because no speech recognition product is completely accurate, “it requires users to check the accuracy of each word uttered as sentences are being dictated. When an error is made, the child must then find the correct word among a list of similar words and choose it. This process necessitates that the user examine the word list closely, compare words that look or sound alike, and make decisions about the best word for the specific situation. This can give kids with learning disabilities a boost in reading and spelling as they learn to discriminate between similar words.”

Adams’ research takes a broader perspective ─ calling for speech recognition technologies to help people learn to read and read to learn. If computers were given “ears,” they could listen to students as they read, offer help or prompt further thought at just the right moments ─ all the while making records of students’ progress and difficulties. This technology could provide tailor-made interactive support and guidance. This is what becoming a good reader depends on.

Adams is not arguing that speech recognition technology approaches would take the place of other literacy approaches. She notes other significant reading efforts. The federal “Reading First” initiative has a focus on making sure all children leave the primary grades having securely learned and understood the basics of the alphabet. And the “Common Core State Standards” initiative focuses on ensuring that students have guidance and practice with increasingly more sophisticated and informative reading texts as they move through the grade levels. Understanding the infrastructure of the alphabet and using reading skills to comprehend texts at an increasingly sophisticated level are both critical components of children’s literacy development throughout their schooling.

The speech recognition “silver bullet,” if it can be called that, points to the challenges Adams sees students facing during the “intermediate reading period.” This is when students are “first gaining the ability to read with fluency and ongoing comprehension. It is with this intermediate challenge that most of our students fall by the wayside.”

During the intermediate reading period, speech recognition technology could be used to help students read and understand texts on their own with the support, instruction, skills and practice to help them through these tasks.

This is the type of research informing the new partnership between Sesame Workshop and ToyTalk, that is in the literacy news. ToyTalk is a company well down the road in exploring children’s speech recognition systems. ToyTalk has developed apps like the Winston Show, where children can talk with animated characters (parents give their permission via email). ToyTalk’s system collects children’s speech patterns to feed into a continually updated database. The more children talk to the animated characters, the better the developers at ToyTalk get at understanding what children are saying (accuracy is important in developing effective speech recognition systems for children).

Sesame Workshop is targeting preschoolers who typically do not speak as clearly and who pause more often when searching for words. Sesame Workshop’s testing has discovered that children who see a two-dimensional Elmo on a screen ( tablet or TV) assume it’s a game with prompts. But when they see a “live-action” character like Elmo, they treat it more like a Skype call with Grandma.

Sesame Workshop has been testing mobile apps that use ToyTalk’s proprietary PullString technology to use a combination of speech recognition meant to understand children’s speech patterns, artificial intelligence and prewritten scripts that respond to what a child has said. The first products from this partnership are expected out next year. Next will come products that would more formally teach children to read. This could include technology that can tell a child whether they’re pronouncing a word correctly, that asks them to come up with a word that rhymes with “dog,” or that asks them to discuss their feelings ─ all through two-way conversations with characters like Elmo and the Cookie Monster.

What would it have been like, to have my son at 5 be able to talk on a regular basis to the Cookie Monster ─ to practice his reading? I think he would have waited eagerly by the phone for the Cookie Monster’s call to the literacy conversation.

_____________

[1] “Sesame Workshop Tackles Literacy With Technology,” Elizabeth Jensen, Oct.19, 2014 (NY Times). http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/20/business/media/sesame-workshop-to-tackle-preschool-literacy-with-technology.html?_r=0

[2] Sesame Workshop is the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street and other programs (e.g., radio, books, videos, interactive media/technology efforts, collaborations with research/ innovation lab ─ the Joan Ganz Cooney Center). Sesame Workshop’s mission is to use the educational power of media to help children everywhere reach their highest potential. http://www.sesameworkshop.org/about-us/workshop-at-a-glance/

[3] ToyTalk, a children’s speech recognition company, is an award-winning, family entertainment company that creates conversational characters. The Winston Show is an iPad app where kids and characters have real conversations in a new dimension of make-believe. SpeakaZoo is a zoo app where kids talk with the animals. It’s made for the iPad, iPod Touch, and iPhone. SpeakaLegend is a talk & touch speech recognition app (e.g., befriend legendary creatures on quest to find the Unicorn, or through SpeakOrTreat visit scariest neighborhood in town to fill up candy bag). https://www.toytalk.com/about/

[4] “Technology for Developing Children’s Language and Literacy: Bringing Speech Recognition to the Classroom” by Marilyn Jager Adams, September 21, 2011. See: http://www.joanganzcooneycenter.org/publication/technology-for-developing-childrens-language-and-literacy-bringing-speech-recognition-to-the-classroom/

[5]“Speech Recognition for Learning,” National Center for Technology Innovation, at brainline kids: http://www.brainline.org/content/2010/12/speech-recognition-for-learning_pageall.html

 

How a medical clinic incorporates the “Reach Out and Read” program

I‘ve always believed that each one of us can make a difference with our contributions of service ─ but when groups of people come together toward a common goal, they can go so much farther and deeper. The Reach Out and Read program is a great example.

Reach Out and Read (<http://www.reachoutandread.org/about-us/>) is a nonprofit organization of doctors and nurses who promote early literacy and school readiness in pediatric exam rooms throughout our nation. They give out new books to children and share advice to parents about the importance of reading aloud. The organization got its start 25 years ago with a first program at a medical center in Boston. By its twelfth year, the model was operating in 50 states and some 1,500 sites ─ distributing 1.6 million books per year. Today, Reach Out and Read partners with nearly 5,000 program sites distributing 6.5 million books per year. The “reach” in its name is well-deserved ─ the program currently serves 4.2 million children and their families and more than one-third of all children living in poverty in the U.S.

What is so unique about this program and its contribution to child literacy? First and foremost, it recognizes that there is a truly special relationship that develops between parents and medical providers (e.g., doctors, dentists, nurses) in the early years of a child’s development. The research shows that most children and their families visit medical providers some 10 times over those early years – and medical providers are viewed as trusted, knowledgeable people in their lives. When medical providers speak to families and children about the importance of reading and literacy development, this can have a tremendous impact. The evidence collected by Reach Out and Read truly bears this out:

  • Reach Out and Read families read together more often.
  • Their children enter kindergarten better prepared to succeed, with larger vocabularies and stronger language skills.
  • During the preschool years, their children score three to six months ahead of their non-Reach Out and Read peers on vocabulary tests ─ and these early foundational skills help start children on a path of success when they enter school.

A win-win all around.

Impressed by this evidence, I recently contacted Reach Out and Read to see if I could donate copies of my children’s books to their program. I knew from the program’s website that major book publishers like Scholastic[1] provide books to Reach Out and Read but wondered if one children’s book author could contribute books as well. Reach Out and Read gratefully accepted my offer of book donations and referred me to one of their programs near my home ─the Trinity Free Clinic.

I didn’t know anything about the Trinity Free Clinic but learned from its website that it provides free medical, health and dental support to the uninsured and low-income residents of our county entirely through a volunteer professional staff of doctors, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, physical therapists, and others (some 500 people volunteer at the clinic). The clinic also focuses on linking families to needed community resources through social services, and providing health education. Since 2000, the clinic has served over 23,000 patients and now serves some 4,000 patient visits per year.

I wondered how important a Reach Out and Read program would be at a clinic that provides an extensive array of medical services (e.g., Medical Clinic for adults and children; Pediatric Clinic; Eye Clinic; Foot Care service; Asthma/Allergy Clinic; Women’s Health Clinic; and Acute Dental Clinic). When I visited the clinic to drop off my donation of books, the very welcoming staff made sure I got the full tour. And I learned that the clinic is committed to coupling medical services with needed community resources through social services and health education. For example, the police department donates car seats to the clinic so families can outfit their vehicles for baby or child car seats. And literacy is a key component of their services as well. Several windowsills on the big windows in the waiting room sport free books for adults donated from the public library or other sources. And there’s a dedicated room for children at one end of the waiting room, which includes books, toys, and child-friendly seating. There’s even a big rocking chair just calling for a reader to read to children.

I viewed first-hand how the Reach Out and Read program is an essential service among the many medical and health education services at the Trinity Free Clinic. Children and their families receive a new book to take home at each visit and medical providers advocate for the importance of reading aloud. This reinforces for me my two views ─that each one of us can make a difference with our contributions of service, and that when groups of people come together toward a common goal like building the Reach Out and Read Program or the Trinity Free Clinic, they will go so much farther and deeper to meet peoples’ needs.

Holly Zanville donates copies of her two latest books (Summer at the Z House and Sadie Cat’s Close Call) to the Reach Out and Read Program at the Trinity Free Clinic in Carmel, IN.  Zanville (seated); right to left: Debbie Truitt, Reach Out and Read Volunteer; Dina Ferchmin, Executive Director; Camille Nelsen, Volunteer Coordinator; Cindy Love, Medical Operations Director.

 


[1] Scholastic is the largest publisher and distributor of children’s books in the world, publishing more than 600 new titles a year for readers ages 0-18, in a variety of print and digital formats.