All parents face challenges somewhere along the journey of raising children. But some groups of parents deal with issues that don’t necessarily affect all. Drs Nia Heard-Garris and Nevin Heard join us to discuss how Black children in America navigate racial identity development and awareness and how their parents can balance the desire to protect them — yet prepare for — the harsh reality of racism.
Dr. Nia Heard-Garris, is a pediatrician and a physician-investigator at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and in the Department of Pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Dr. Heard-Garris is also the Chair and founding member of the Section of Minority Health, Equity, and Inclusion at the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Nevin J. Heard, is an assistant professor of clinical counseling at Roosevelt University. Dr. Heard’s research and service focuses on multicultural and social justice issues; centering on the intersectional realities of ethnic and racial minorities, people of low socioeconomic status, LGBTQ+ populations, and those affected by HIV/AIDS. Heard serves as the Chair for the Racial Equity Committee for Roosevelt University’s College of Education.
In Part 2 of our series on LGBTQ+ children’s books, we talk to Dr. Jamie Campbell Naidoo, a professor at the University of Alabama’s School of Library and Information Studies. We discuss how to evaluate LGBTQ+ books for kids, common portrayals of ‘rainbow families’ in children’s books, balancing accessibility and privacy issues for books around these topics, and, of course why, year after year, LGBTQ+ children’s books continue to be the most challenged genre.
The publication of Charlotte Zolotow’s picture book William’s Doll (1972) not only broke gender stereotypes but became a landmark moment in American children’s literature. In a bonus episode of our “Inner Truths: LGBTQ” series, host Dr. Perri Klass speaks with Charlotte’s daughter, Crescent Dragonwagon (a prolific author herself), about the making of William’s Doll and her mother’s cultural impact as a writer and editor of books that have encouraged tolerance, kindness, and authenticity for generations of children.
Dr. Jamie Campbell Naidoo is the Foster-EBSCO Endowed Professor at The University of Alabama School of Library and Information Studies. His research interests include library services to diverse populations and diversity in children’s and YA media (print and digital). He teaches courses in public librarianship, children’s literature, storytelling, and materials and services to children, young adults, families, and diverse populations.
Prior to joining the faculty in 2008, Dr. Naidoo served as an assistant professor at the University of South Carolina School of Library and Information Science where he taught undergraduate and graduate courses in children’s literature, literacy/library services to Latinos, and materials and programs for libraries serving young children. He has worked in both school and public libraries in Alabama as an elementary school library media specialist and as the coordinator of youth services/children’s librarian.
Dr. Naidoo consults regularly with various non-profit and for-profit organizations to develop children’s media and educational curricula that authentically and accurately depict various diverse cultural groups. He also works with libraries and schools interested in serving the literacy needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, asexual, intersex, and more (LGBTQAI+/Rainbow) children and teens; LGBTQ families/Rainbow Families; and other culturally diverse populations.
Dr. Naidoo served as the 2018-2019 President of the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), and board of director for the United States Board on Books for Young People (USBBY), and board of directors for ALSC.
Crescent Dragonwagon is the author of fifty books, including two novels, seven cookbooks / culinary memoirs, more than twenty children’s books, a biography, and a collection of poetry. In addition, she has written for numerous magazines including The New York Times Book Review and Horn Book, and she is the author of the blog Nothing is Wasted on the Writer, at Dragonwagon.com. Her books have won several awards, including the Coretta Scott King Award-winning “Half a Moon and One Whole Star” (illustrated by Jerry Pinkney) and the James Beard Award for her cookbook “Passionate Vegetarian”. Crescent is the daughter of writers Charlotte Zolotow and Maurice Zolotow. She was her mother’s occasional writing collaborator and is literary executor for both her parents. She divides her time between New York, Vermont, and Arkansas.
LGBTQ+ children’s books play a crucial role in offering ‘mirrors and windows’ for all children and their caregivers, yet they remain not only hard to find but often challenged by society. In Part 1 of our 2-part series, we’ll explore the craft and creativity behind LGBTQ+ children’s literature with Lesléa Newman, author of 75 books including the well-known “Heather Has Two Mommies”, and Kyle Lukoff, author of “Call Me Max” and “When Aidan Became A Brother.”
Lesléa Newman is the author of 75 books for readers of all ages, including A Letter to Harvey Milk; October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard; I Carry My Mother; The Boy Who Cried Fabulous; Ketzel, the Cat Who Composed; and Heather Has Two Mommies.
She has received many literary awards, including creative writing fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Massachusetts Artists Foundation, two American Library Association Stonewall Honors, the Massachusetts Book Award, the Association of Jewish Libraries Sydney Taylor Award, and the Highlights for Children Fiction Writing Award, among many more. Nine of her books have been Lambda Literary Award Finalists. In addition to being an author, Ms. Newman is a popular guest lecturer and has spoken on college campuses across the country including Harvard University, Yale University, the University of Oregon, Bryn Mawr College, Smith College, and the University of Judaism. From 2005-2009, Lesléa was on the faculty of the Stonecoast MFA program at the University of Southern Maine. From 2008-2010, she served as the Poet Laureate of Northampton, MA. She has taught fiction writing at Clark University and currently, she is a faculty mentor at Spalding University’s School of Creative and Professional Writing. You can find out more at lesleanewman.com and
Kyle Lukoff writes books for kids and other people. His debut middle-grade novel, Too Bright to See, is available now. Additional books include A Storytelling of Ravens, When Aidan Became a Brother (which won the 2020 Stonewall Award!), the Max and Friends series, and Explosion at the Poem Factory.
Kyle spent eight years as an elementary school librarian, but now he writes full time, assists in sensitivity readings and consultations, and presents on children’s and youth literature all across the country. He got hired at a bookstore when he was sixteen, which means he’s been working at the intersection of books and people for well over half his life.
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.
Dr. Monica Ultmann is the Director of Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics at Tufts Children’s Hospital and a Clinical Professor at Tufts University School of Medicine.
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, novelist, poet, and the Library of Congress’s National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, joins us in a far-ranging, sublime, and deeply honest conversation about the power of imagination, literature, and storytelling to allow America’s youth to grow, to strive, and to reverse the ills of racism and beyond.
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.
The reality of remote learning is here, and it’s led teachers and families to re-evaluate what school means during COVID-19. Josh Golin and Seth Evans, from the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, speak to us about their recent policy statement EdTech and Education Policy During the Pandemic and the importance of getting online learning right.
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.
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.