Read the Room – Using Place and Space to Facilitate Reading
How Worldreader and Raising a Reader are leveraging technology, family reading, and school readiness to improve healthy outcomes for children in pediatric clinics
Every clinic waiting room has one: the frazzled adult with several kids in tow, carrying an overstuffed bag filled with Kleenex, crayons, and cracker crumbs. Maybe you’ve even been that adult who hands the kids a screen in a last-ditch attempt to keep them from ransacking the stack of intake forms or emptying the hand sanitizer bottle on the rug.
Don’t worry. Help is on the way.
Worldreader has partnered with the Raising a Reader organization and several pediatric clinics in the Bay Area of California, leveraging technology to connect waiting families with high-quality books. This is accomplished with Worldreader’s BookSmart app, providing young readers ages 3 through 12 with free and instant access to hundreds of digital books in multiple languages.
The partnership’s intent goes far beyond simply providing families with a diversion. Raising a Reader’s Senior Vice President of Programs and Partnerships, Michelle Siosin Hyman, said her organization is founded with a belief in strengthening families.
We believe that early literacy is the cornerstone in equity for all. We want reading to be in places like housing agencies, medical clinics and home visiting programs. We want families to have access to diverse books in all of the spaces and places where they are.Michelle Siosin Hyman
Dr. Reshma Thadani agrees. She is part of a number of pediatricians promoting “Kinder Ready” clinics that focus on school readiness, especially for families less connected to early childhood education programs. Kinder Ready clinics engage parents and guardians as their child’s first teacher, providing learning materials in friendly clinic environments and embedding a school readiness narrative into clinical guidance.
When I learned about BookSmart, I thought, ‘This is really a perfect solution for us. This is a way that we can promote reading with people who are already on an electronic device.Dr. Reshma Thadani
Family reading is a high priority for Dr. Thadani. Walls in waiting and exam rooms are decorated with images and messages that promote early learning – especially with books. Some clinic waiting rooms also feature little libraries, but those can be challenging to stock, Thadani noted.
“Sometimes it’s hard to get actual physical books. It can be costly. Also, for the population where I practice, we need bilingual materials, which can be another obstacle.”
Not only does BookSmart enable clinics to provide books in multiple languages, but the app also allows clinics to to track and measure reading engagement time and progress among the families they serve. So far, four clinics have adopted BookSmart as a standard part of check-in and check-out procedures.
“It starts with relationships,” Hyman said of the growing partnerships with local clinics. She pointed to strategies like including the BookSmart QR code on patient discharge papers, making family reading a part of a young patient’s ‘prescription,’ and clinic staff serving as reading ambassadors. “It’s that warm handoff that’s been really working well.”
Dr. Thadani stressed that there is a real sense of urgency with this work, especially for her patients from underserved communities. “In these communities, we’re seeing poor kindergarten readiness and low reading scores in the 3rd grade. Reading success by the 3rd grade is an indicator for high school graduation,” she added. “We want to help families understand that if they wait for their child to get to kindergarten to begin learning, it’s sometimes too late.”
Hyman said that those sentiments resonate deeply with Raising a Reader. “Early reading helps with a child’s social-emotional and brain development and builds family bonds,” she remarked. “The BookSmart tool is not just about handing a screen or a book to a child. It encourages families and caregivers to take time to read together. That’s really important.”