Engaging conversations with experts in childhood health and literacy.
A podcast centered on the belief that children’s books build better brains, better family relationships, and happier, healthier children and societies. Join us as host Dr. Dipesh Navsaria, a pediatrician with a children’s librarianship degree dives into a wealth of varied early childhood health and literacy topics with expert guests examining the many facets of supporting the parent-child relationship as key to early success.
Research shows reading physical books together brings the strongest benefits to children. That’s why we’re happy to have Boise Paper – a responsible paper manufacturer – sponsor this podcast. Through their Paper with Purpose promise, Boise Paper looks for ways to make a difference in local communities.Thank you to Boise Paper for investing in our Reach Out and Read community.
Share Your Story
We are continually inspired by stories that encourage language, literacy, and positive moments and we would love to hear yours.
While parenting can be challenging, can you imagine what it’s like doing so from behind bars? Even so, maintaining the parent-child relationship is critical to reducing the harm to children of having an incarcerated parent. We span the professional and personal of this subject, first with investigative journalist Ludwig Hurtado on the rise of reading-aloud programs at jails and prisons nationally. Then, Greg Williams and his daughter Melissa share their personal story of being separated by bars while reading and being read to, and how these programs shaped their relationship.
Ludwig Hurtado, is a writer and producer whose work has appeared in The New York Times, NBC News, CityLab, Vice, The Nation, Pitchfork, and other national publications. He’s reported on various topics including housing, homelessness, gentrification, food justice, incarceration, immigration, politics, culture, and the Latinx community.
Greg Williams, a school campus supervisor and coach, and his daughter Melissa White, a K-8 school teacher with a master’s degree in special education. Greg and Melissa are past participants of Reading Legacies – a program that trains parents who are incarcerated to read aloud to their children on video to help reinforce their relationship.
When it comes to reading preferences, are you on Team Print or Team Digital? It turns out you may not have to pick sides. How we read matters, but why we make that choice may matter more. Dr. Naomi Baron, Prof. Emerita of Linguistics at the American University and author of How We Read Now, breaks down the impact of reading medium on learning and what strategies we can offer our children – and ourselves – in order to read effectively in all formats
Dr. Naomi Baron, Professor Emerita of Linguistics at the American University in Washington, DC. Her research interests include language and technology, reading, first language acquisition, the relationship between speech and writing, the history and structure of English, and higher education. A former Guggenheim Fellow, Fulbright Fellow, Fulbright Specialist, and Visiting Scholar at the Stanford Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, she has published nine books. Her newest is How We Read Now: Strategic Choices for Print, Screen, and Audio.
The shiny medallions prominently displayed on award-winning children’s books are familiar to many. But what’s behind those seals? How are the winners chosen? And, of course, what is it like to WIN one? Kathleen T Horning, a well-known expert and member of numerous children’s book award committees, takes us behind the scenes of the process. Then we speak with Carole Lindstrom, author of this year’s Caldecott Medal winner, “We Are Water Protectors” (illustrated by Michaela Goade), to hear about her experience.
Kathleen T. Horning is the director of the Cooperative Children’s Book Center of the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She was also a children’s librarian at Madison Public Library for nine years. Ms. Horning was the president of the Association for Library Service to Children of the American Library Association in 2007, as well as president of the United States Board on Books for Young People in 2003. She has chaired or served on a variety of children’s book award committees, including the Américas Award, the Charlotte Zolotow Award, the John Newbery, USBBY’s Hans Christian Andersen Award, the Coretta Scott King Award, the Mildred L. Batchelder Award, the ALA/ALSC’s Notable Children’s Books, and the NCTE Lee Bennett Hopkins Award committees, and she was selected to deliver the 2010 May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture.
Carole Lindstrom is the author of the 2021 Caldecott Medal-winning book, “We Are Water Protectors”, illustrated by Michaela Goade. She is Anishinabe/Métis and a proud member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe Indians. Carole was born and raised in Nebraska, and currently makes her home in Maryland. In addition to “We Are Water Protectors”, she is the author of “Girl’s Dance, Boy’s Fiddle.”
We know shared reading benefits all children, but for those with developmental differences, it offers unique opportunities. Dr. Monica Ultmann, the Director of Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics at the Tufts Children’s Hospital in Boston, and Sally J Pla, an award-winning children’s writer, join us to share their experiences, insights, and stories about reading with children who differ from typical.
Sally J. Pla is the award-winning author of acclaimed middle-grade novels The Someday Birds and Stanley Will Probably Be Fine, and the picture book, Benji, The Bad Day, & Me. The Someday Birds was the recipient of the 2018 Dolly Gray Children’s Literature Award for its authentic portrayal of disability. It was a NY Public Library Best Children’s Book of 2017, and a Bank Street Best Children’s Book of 2017, among many more.
Military families face situations that pose distinctive social and emotional challenges to the health and wellbeing of their children. First, AAP President Dr. Lee Beers draws on her own past experiences in caring for military families and shares her approaches. Then the Kikta family joins us to share their personal, direct experience of how reading together helped them and their four children through multiple deployments.
Dr. Lee Beers is the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and a Professor of Pediatrics and the Medical Director for Community Health and Advocacy at Children’s National Hospital. After graduating from the Emory University School of Medicine, Dr. Beers completed her residency training at the Naval Medical Center. Afterward, she was assigned to the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station where she was the only pediatrician on base. During her 18-month assignment, she cared for every child on the base, ran the station’s immunization clinic, served on the child abuse committee, and worked on joint commission issues.
United States Marine Corps Officer Jason Kikta, and Air Force Veteran Mary-Lena Kikta have a combined 25 + years of military service – all while raising four children currently ranging in age from 4 to 13 yrs old. Mary-Lena is also the Program Manager of the Marine Corps branch of United Through Reading.
We know reading aloud with children matters. But whether you’re experienced at it or if you’re not sure how to read well with young children, we can all learn from Dr. Andrea Zevenbergen. She joins us to break down the concept of Dialogic Reading, and offers advice on how to model, coach, and help offer effective guidance.
Dr. Andrea Zevenbergen is a Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Psychology Department at the State University of New York at Fredonia. She has been conducting research on dialogic reading for over three decades and has published extensively in the areas of parent-child shared reading and storytelling.
Philanthropy touches our lives on a daily basis, but the decision-making process by those who hold the so-called ‘purse strings’ can be seemingly shrouded in secrecy. We talked to Dr. Katie Beckmann and Ira Hillman from the Packard Foundation and Einhorn Collaborative, respectively, who took us behind the scenes to help demystify the world of philanthropy.
Katherine Beckmann is a Program Officer for the Children, Families, and Communities subprogram at the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. In this role, Dr. Beckmann oversees the children’s health strategy and leads efforts to protect and advance federal policies that support paid family leave, health, and early care and education. She is particularly interested in the intersection of child development, disease prevention, and health promotion to better prepare young children for lifelong education. Prior to joining the Foundation, Dr. Beckmann served as the Senior Policy Advisor for Early Childhood Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services where she coordinated, integrated, and implemented early childhood health and development policies and initiatives across Head Start, child care, Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge, and Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting programs. Dr. Beckmann received her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology with Distinction at Columbia University where her research focused on social and environmental risk factors leading to toxic stress during pregnancy and cognitive outcomes in preschoolers. She earned her B.A. in Psychology at Washington University in St. Louis and M.P.H. in Health Policy and Administration at Yale University.
Ira Hillman leads the Bonding strategy at Einhorn Collaborative. Einhorn Collaborative is a nonprofit foundation dedicated to addressing America’s growing crisis of connection. By advancing the science and practice of empathy, mutual understanding, and relationship building, we can rediscover our common humanity and solve our nation’s greatest challenges together. The Bonding strategy at Einhorn Collaborative supports collectives of funders and programs that help parents and their babies establish and maintain an emotional connection. Pediatrics Supporting Parents is one of those collaborative efforts, leveraging pediatric well-visits to support parents in promoting children’s social and emotional development and nurturing parent-child relationships. Throughout Ira’s career and personal volunteer activities, he has worked with organizations to transform their operations, develop new strategies, and build stronger collaborations among stakeholder groups. Prior to joining Einhorn Collaborative, Ira spent a decade and a half in Washington DC where he was the Chief Operating Officer and Chief of Staff for the National Breast Cancer Coalition following his tenure as the Managing Director of Round House Theatre. Ira has also worked for the University of Pennsylvania, his alma mater, where he continues to serve as President of his undergraduate class and as a steering committee member for initiatives that promote multicultural outreach and engagement among Penn alumni.
Technology has been an indispensable tool during the pandemic, but how has the massive shift to an almost exclusively online life affected children? Sal Khan, founder and CEO of Khan Academy, and Dr. Jenny Radesky, a Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrician and author of notable American Academy of Pediatrics statements on digital media join us for a thoughtful, considered conversation on how to navigate this world.
Sal Khan is the founder and CEO of Khan Academy, a nonprofit educational organization that offers free lessons in math, science, and humanities in multiple languages, as well as tools for parents, teachers, and districts to track student progress.
Dr. Jenny Radesky is a Developmental Behavioral Pediatrician whose NIH-funded research focuses on mobile and interactive media use, child social-emotional development, and parent-child interaction. Her clinical work focuses on autism, ADHD, and advocacy for families facing poverty and adversity. She authored the American Academy of Pediatrics policy statements about digital media use by young children in 2016, and digital advertising to children in 2020.
An antidote to distraction in the modern age? A way to build better brains through books? Or simply a treasured memory of childhood — and parenting? We discuss all these aspects of shared reading aloud with Meghan Cox Gurdon, the children’s book reviewer for The Wall Street Journal, and author of “The Enchanted Hour.”
Meghan Cox Gurdon is an essayist, book critic, and former foreign correspondent who has been the Wall Street Journal’s children’s book reviewer since 2005. Her work has appeared widely, in publications such as the Washington Examiner, the Daily Telegraph, the Christian Science Monitor, the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, and National Review. A graduate of Bowdoin College, she lives in Bethesda, Maryland, with her husband, Hugo Gurdon, and their five children.
One might think that investing in programs that meaningfully support children, families, and early learning can’t possibly survive the “red tape” of government bureaucracy. But when the right people with the right focus are involved, innovative and creative approaches can become a reality. This week, we talk to Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, and Dr. Elizabeth Erickson, Medical Director of Family Connect – Durham to talk about North Carolina’s use of federal Health Service Initiative funding to expand early literacy programming.
Dr. Mandy Cohen was appointed to the role of Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) in January 2017 by Governor Roy Cooper. Secretary Cohen and her team work tirelessly to improve the health, safety and well-being of all North Carolinians. DHHS has 17,000 employees and an annual budget of $20 billion serving as the home to NC Medicaid, Public Health, Mental Health/IDD/SUD, State Operated Hospitals and Facilities, Economic Services, Adult and Child Services, Early Childhood Education, Employment Services, and Health Services Regulation. Secretary Cohen and her team are focused on responding to and recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, building a robust, efficient Medicaid program, improving early childhood health, safety and education, combating the opioid crisis, and ensuring equitable access to health resources.
Dr. Elizabeth Erickson is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Duke University School of Medicine, an Associate Director of the Primary Care Leadership Track at Duke School of Medicine, and the Medical Director of Family Connects – Durham. Dr. Erickson is a graduate of Davidson College and the Wake Forest University School of Medicine. She completed her residency and chief resident year in Pediatrics at Duke. In her clinical roles, Dr. Erickson splits her time between general outpatient pediatrics and newborn nursery care. In addition to her clinical roles, she serves as one of the medical directors of the Reach Out and Read program, which provides books and early literacy guidance for families at well child visits. Her research interests focus on early literacy promotion and how early shared reading can impact children and families.
Alice Ozma, author of “The Reading Promise”, and her father Jim Brozina, a children’s librarian, join us to talk about their read-aloud adventure lovingly known as “The Streak” – a remarkable reading challenge that culminated in an incredible 3,218 nights in a row of reading aloud.
In the second half of the show, actor Kyliegh Curran treats us to a read-aloud story perfect for this holiday season.
Jason Reynolds was born in Washington, DC and raised in neighboring Oxon Hill, Maryland, Reynolds found inspiration in rap to begin writing poetry at nine years old. He focused on poetry for approximately the next two decades, only reading a novel cover to cover for the first time at age 17 and publishing several poetry collections before he published his own first novel, When I Was The Greatest, in 2014.
He won the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent for this first work of prose and seven more novels followed in the next four years, including Ghost (2016) and two more books in what became his New York Times best-selling Track series, Patina (2017) and Sunny (2018); As Brave As You (2016), winner of the 2016 Kirkus Prize, the 2017 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work for Youth/Teen, and the 2017 Schneider Family Book Award; and a Marvel Comics novel called Miles Morales: Spider-Man (2017). Reynolds returned to poetry with Long Way Down (2017), a novel in verse which was named a Newbery Honor Book, a Printz Honor Book, and best young adult work by the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Awards. Jason is the Library of Congress’s National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature for 2020 and 2021.
Reading aloud brings people together, and we thank every person who reads aloud to a child. To mark this holiday devoted to giving thanks, we asked three children’s authors — Traci Sorell, Ann Clare LeZotte, and Dr. Sayantani DasGupta — to read aloud their own stories of gratitude. Click here for complete show transcripts.
Cherokee Nation citizen and award-winning Traci Sorell writes fiction and nonfiction books, short stories and poems for young people. A former federal Indian law attorney and advocate, she lives with her family within her tribe’s reservation in northeastern Oklahoma.
Ann Clare LeZotte is the author of Show Me a Sign (a 2020 School Library Journal Book of the Year, four starred reviews) and a forthcoming companion novel. A long-time youth services librarian who focused on underserved populations and inclusion, Ann is Deaf, bi-lingual, and bi-cultural. “I never had a romance about being ‘special’ or ‘different,’” she says. “I wished long and hard to be normal, a waste of time and a heartbreak I don’t want other young people to experience.”
Dr. DasGupta is the New York Times bestselling author of the critically acclaimed, Bengali folktale and string theory-inspired Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond books, the first of which—The Serpent’s Secret—was a Bank Street Best Book of the Year, a Booklist Best Middle Grade Novel of the 21st Century, and an EB White Read Aloud Honor Book. Sayantani is a pediatrician by training but now teaches at Columbia University.
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nicholas Kristof has covered neglected social and economic welfare topics all over the world, but his most recent book, Tightrope: Americans Reaching For Hope is an exploration of poverty in America seen through a very personal lens – the community in which Nick grew up. Strikingly, while many may focus on the importance of support for adults, rehabilitation, and remediation, Nick and his co-author and wife, Sheryl WuDunn, chose to put the focus on something near and dear to the heart of this podcast: the dramatic, deep, and powerful importance of early foundational health.
Nicholas D. Kristof, journalist and a columnist for The New York Times since 2001, is a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner. He has co-authored several books with his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, including A Path Appears, Half the Sky, and their latest collaboration Tightrope: Americans Reaching For Hope.
We are joined by Mark Del Monte, CEO of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and Dr. Nathan Chomilo, pediatrician and policy expert from Minnesota to discuss how the world of policy affects the everyday lives of children and families — and the issues to keep in mind as we vote this year.
Dr. Perri Klass, author of the new book A Good Time to Be Born joins us to talk about the social, and medical, events that transformed childhood, and parenting.
Dr. Perri Klass is a pediatrician, author, and writer of “The Checkup”, a weekly column on children’s issues for the New York Times. She is also the world’s only Professor of Journalism and Pediatrics, at New York University. Dr. Klass is the National Medical Director of Reach Out and Read and writes about children and families, medicine, food, travel, and knitting.
Early foundational relationships are the strongest predictor of young children’s long-term success — what happens to kids in those early months and years of life sets the stage for how they relate to others and the world around them, and how those others relate to them.
Dr. David Willis, Developmental-Behavioral pediatrician and Senior Fellow with the Center for the Study of Social Policy, and Claudia Aristy, Director of Children of Bellevue’s Reach Out and Read Program, join us to talk about how families—and the professionals that support them—can create and maintain robust early relational health.
Chelsea Clinton, author, advocate, and vice-chair of the Clinton Foundation joins us to talk about growing up with books, the role of books in her own children’s lives, and the importance of reading programs to support all children and families.
Children’s books can bring much comfort and insight for children and adults alike. With all that is happening in our world, we figured that now is a good time to ask: What Meaning do Children’s Books Have in a Time of Crisis? Books represent a familiar, calming activity, almost like an anchor in rough seas.
We’re joined by the author of award-winning and internationally acclaimed books including When Lions Roar,Who? and Crash! Boom!Robie Harris, she tackles serious issues while weaving the truth of children into her stories. During times of crisis, she stresses portraying in books the strong, yet perfectly normal feelings children experience! We are also joined by Leonard Marcus, a historian and leading writer about children’s books and the people who create them. “The nature of storytelling is that it puts a shape on the chaos of real life,” said Marcus.
As the Flint, Michigan water crisis played out within government and the media, it became readily apparent that a major factor in the crisis was that the communities most affected were largely poor, mostly minorities, and without political power. Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the doctor who uncovered Flint’s water crisis and led its recovery efforts, joins us to talk about disparities and social determinants of health.
We know that books serve as mirrors to children, providing reflections of themselves, as well as windows, letting them see others and their experiences. We know that a broad, diverse range of depictions helps children see that from a young age. However, we also know that the range of diversity in children’s books is nowhere near as rich as it could and should be.
On this special, inaugural episode of the Reach Out & Read Podcast, we’re joined by Dr. Monique Jindal, an internal medicine and pediatrics physician at Johns Hopkins, and Meg Medina, author of the Newbery Medal-winning book Merci Suárez Changes Gears. They’ll be discussing the importance of diversity in children’s literature and lives.
There’s also a special bonus episode with Ashley Lukashevsky, illustrator of Antiracist Baby, who will share her creative process and craft with us in writing and illustrating children’s books with diversity in mind.
Meet the Host
To the best of our knowledge, there is only one pediatrician anywhere who got a master’s in library science in the middle of his medical training, all to learn more about children’s literature. That is our host, Dr. Dipesh Navsaria. A practicing pediatrician in Wisconsin, Dr. Navsaria is the Medical Director of ROR Wisconsin, co-chair of the Early Literacy Subcommittee of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Council on Early Childhood, and many other initiatives involving the psychosocial world of children, their families, and society, from policy to parenting support. An associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, he lives in Madison, Wisconsin, with his wife, two children, two cats, a dog, and backyard chickens. He has a deep-seated dependence on wearing bowties, of which he owns far too many…but all of which he can tie without a mirror, in under a minute!