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August 17, 2017

More Than Words: Reach Out and Read Delivers

When there is alignment of Leadership, Willingness, Readiness, Capacity, and Culture, the journey of change advances at the speed of trust.

At The Patterson Foundation (TPF) and Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (SCGLR), we live our values to amplify impact for people, organizations, and communities. We strive to be accessible and to deeply listen to and learn about our community’s aspirations. We know that lasting change takes commitment and persistence. As we address the most common issues and obstacles that impact a child’s ability to read, we embrace evidence-based best practices. We work to leverage the resources required to co-create thrivability.

SCGLR joyfully celebrates the delivery of 2,000 pounds of books with our community and community partners. That’s right. Literally, a ton of books were delivered in our first Reach Out and Read book shipment. This occasion represents an alignment of leadership as individuals and organizations work together on our shared aspiration of bringing one of the best possible early literacy programs to 10,000 children and their families in Manatee County.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has endorsed the Reach Out and Read Program as an effective intervention to engage parents and prepare children to achieve their potential in school and in life. This is the kind of excellence our community leaders and organizations want to provide.

Alignment – Leadership -Willingness – Readiness

When Beth Duda, director of the Suncoast CGLR, first met with Dr. Van Buren M.D., Senior VP Medical Affairs and Medical Director of Manatee County Rural Health Services (MCRHS), she discovered that MCRHS was a Reach Out and Read approved organization. However, since October 2001, securing stable funding for the program was an issue. Dr. VanBuren suggested we meet with Dr. Neta Strum M.D. about the prospect of re-establishing the program. We circled back with Mr. Patrick Carnegie and he agreed that Reach Out and Read was a program that MCRHS wanted to provide for all of their patients and families from birth to five years, to ensure children are instilled with a love of learning.

Capacity and Culture

Moving forward, we spent some time sharing information about the Reach Out and Read program with SCGLR partners to see if they would be interested in providing financial support. Susie Bowie, CEO of the Manatee Community Foundation; Roxie Jerde, CEO of Community Foundation of Sarasota County; John Annis, Senior Vice President for Community Investment with the Community Foundation of Sarasota County; and Bronwyn Beightol, Manatee Area President for United Way Suncoast all agreed that Reach Out and Read was an outstanding early literacy program. Their next step would be to secure the funding required for the next three years. Each organization was confident their donors would be willing to invest once they had learned about the program, but what was the best way to convey the information?

Serendipitously, John Annis shared the news with Beth Duda that some of his Aspen Ascend Fellows were planning a visit to Sarasota. One of the Fellows, Dr. Dipesh Navsaria M.D., a pediatrician, occasional children’s librarian, and a public health professional, happened to be a member of the board of Directors of Reach Out and Read. Knowing Dr. Navsaria is an incredible advocate for the Reach Out and Read program, SCGLR invited Dr. Navsaria to spend a day with us listening to and inspiring pediatricians and donors in Sarasota and Manatee Counties. Many donors expressed keen interest in supporting this evidenced-based program because it has proven to give young children a foundation for success by incorporating books into pediatric care and encouraging families to read aloud together.

At every clinic we visited, Dr. Navsaria left his prescription for parents:

Read to your children….

As a result of the excitement Dr. Navsaria’s visit created, both Sarasota County Government and Manatee County Government proclaimed April as Reach Out and Read month!

Support was in place and pediatricians were on board, now it was time to work on logistics.

A memorandum of understanding was written and approved, and age-appropriate books in different languages and the right quantities were ordered for each of the six clinics. The SCLGR team then worked on the delivery and timing, finding a location to receive a ton of books, and coordinating a team of volunteers to help label and sort all the books. We developed our first inventory system to keep the program running smoothly and even created a parent survey to help monitor the results of the program.

Manatee Technical College was quick to offer us space to receive the books.  The volunteer team with members from Manatee County Government, Manatee County Libraries, Manatee Community Foundation, and various friends and neighbors all offered their precious gift of time to help us prepare 5,940 books. Thanks to the extraordinary efforts of the volunteers, by the end of the second day the books were loaded onto Manatee Rural Health Services vans and delivered to six clinics for pediatricians who have begun sharing the gift of literacy with the children they see.

Reach Out and Read is a simple solution that starts with a trained doctor or nurse practitioner, a family, a book, and a prescription for parents to read aloud and talk with their children every day. Our local clinicians talk with parents about how important it is to read aloud. They encourage parents to cuddle up with their children to read together, and they give each child a book to take home.

Reach Out and Read is endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics. In 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a landmark policy statement promoting literacy as “an essential component of pediatric primary care” for all children. The policy references Reach Out and Read as an effective intervention to engage parents and prepare children to achieve their potential in school and beyond.

We are excited to work with the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota as they have just become an official Reach Out and Read provider. Their pediatricians are currently completing the required training, and very soon, they will be sharing the gift of literacy within their clinics.

Change happens at the speed of trust – no one can do this work alone. Thank you for your support!

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