Working on literacy is incredibly important for a lot of reasons. As you probably know, children from disadvantaged backgrounds struggle with a number of issues (like crime, poverty, early pregnancy, diabetes and obesity). Education can help to combat these issues. A good education helps people to get good jobs so they can avoid crime and poverty. Health literacy and self-esteem (which can be gained from confidence in important skills like reading) help people avoid unintended pregnancy and to engage in other healthy behaviors. Early childhood education has been shown to be important for getting kids a good start in the world. We are very passionate about the kids in our Park Hill community, and doing all we can to set them up for success.
Even before Park Hill, this program has been very close to my heart. I worked at Zuni Pueblo from 2001 – 2011 and I founded the Reach Out and Read Program there. It was a very “hands on” operation where I would pick out all the books myself, find the best deals, sort the books when they arrived and motivate the staff there to assure that all the kids got books. It was a labor of love and one of the things I am most proud of from my time there. Each year we gave out about 1,000 books to our community of about 30,000 people. And by the end of my 10 years there we had given out 10,000 books! We served a specific community that rarely got care elsewhere. This means that all the kids in Zuni who are now 6 – 16 years old, got their start in reading because of what I did. And what’s more is the program has continued since I left. Kids in that community face a future that includes diabetes for 66% of them and alcohol use for many others. The ability to read and to do well at school gives them a chance to beat those odds and to lead more fulfilling lives.
But, of course, we aren’t talking about Zuni – I make the point to demonstrate my passion for the program.
We are talking about Park Hill which also suffers disproportionately from similar issues. Reach Out and Read has been at Park Hill since 1998, and last year in 2017 we gave out 762 books to our kids. Like in Zuni, many parents would not have kids’ books in their homes and would not read to their children if it were not for Reach Out and Read Colorado. This would be terrible because it would mean that from the starting line kids in this neighborhood would be at a disadvantage for one more reason. But we do have Reach Out and Read. And we do give kids 10 books over their first 5 years of life. And we do teach the parents the importance of reading to their kids and giving them techniques to do it well. Because of Reach Out and Read Colorado, there is one less disadvantage for the kids of northeast Park Hill in realizing a happy, healthy future.
Feature by Eric Peterson, M. D.
Team Lead, Denver Health: Park Hill Family Health Center
From the Desk of Meredith Hintze
Each Reach Out and Read Colorado clinic has its own window to the world and story to tell. Some sites have served generations of families and offer wisdom, not only about primary care but about the landscape of the community. Others are just opening their doors, excited about what the future holds and the families they will touch. Many of the clinics we work with offer individualized supports for children and families based on circumstance, whether on military bases, Native American reservations or by providing enhanced supports for young mothers or refugee families.
Through our partnership with more than 320 program sites across the state, Reach Out and Read Colorado now serves children and families from every Colorado county. Every day, these programs prescribe more than 550 to Colorado children. The letter featured above, written by Denver Health: Park Hill Family Health Center’s Medical Champion, outlines the impact and importance of the Reach Out and Read program on the children and families served by the clinic. It also highlights how Reach Out and Read Colorado is such a valuable asset for clinics as they strive to be a community hub for families.
In addition to all of the wonderful ways that our community has sustained our organization in the past, this year we are excited to launch a new Site Sponsorship program, which will allow supporters to develop a unique hands-on partnership with a clinic and a community, as well as underwrite 100% of all program costs at that site. Site Sponsorship is an incredibly meaningful way to contribute, and we owe a giant thank you to Ronni and B. for signing on to sponsor Denver Health: Park Hill Family Health Center and truly launching this model.