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Letter from the Director

Dear Friends of Reach Out and Read Texas,

It is summertime once again in the Lone Star State.  Is it just me or are the seasons racing by?  I know that for the pediatric providers, this means that soon you’ll be moving into full throttle well child visit season.  Hopefully you’ve planned some rest and relaxation with family and friends to store up the reserves needed for the busy time.

I have worked to connect with as many of you as possible this spring and have lots to share about your programs.  I also note that there are collaborative efforts around the state focused on supporting young children—Early Matters in Houston, Commit! in Dallas, Prosper Waco, to name a few.

These coalitions are combining the resources of health care systems, business, civic, education, philanthropic, and non-profit organizations to focus on the needs of young children and their families, acknowledging that with intentional early investment, improvements can be made in kindergarten readiness, graduation rates and even workforce readiness.   Communities are increasingly aware of both the urgency and significance of supporting the healthy development of young minds.

Please remember that encouraging parents to talk, sing, and read with young children is a powerful resource for changing the trajectory for at-risk children and their brain development.  I appreciate all that you do to support the children of Texas!

Jocelyn McConnell, M.Ed.


Check out the newly updated Reach Out and Read Texas website:
You’ll find downloadable resources for your program, links to additional information and resources for parents as well.  Let us know what you think.  Special thanks to web developer, Bang Pham, for this gift to our program!

Reach Out and Read

Progress Reports will be due in July.  While logged in, please review contact lists and make sure they reflect all active providers and coordinators at your site with current email and phone numbers.  And, please check to see who needs to do the free online CME training!

Program Highlights:

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Susanna Rodriguez, M.Ed., Early Childhood Specialist at Children’s Medical Center of Dallas-Bright Building, Foster Care Clinic, took over coordination of their Reach Out and Read program last October.  She proactively contacted me to find out about tasks required and took it and ran.  She created a spreadsheet to track books by age and language and used color coded stickers on the books as well.  She’s also thoughtfully considered the book titles available and evaluated their impact on the special population they serve.

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Keeping it simple: Donna Boone, MA manages the Reach Out and Read program at UTHealth-Houston’s Student Health Services.  They primarily see students at the various schools within UTHealth but do see the students’ children now and then.   Donna keeps books in colorful baskets by age group with developmental guidelines taped below for quick reference and keeps a cozy corner for children in the pediatric exam room. Along with books to read while waiting, she has information about the FLIP program at the Children’s Museum of Houston and library information as well.

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Trayce Robinson, MD, Lead Physician, Pediatrics at DeHaro Saldivar Health Center of the Parkland Health & Hospital System in Dallas, shares: I have been participating in the Reach Out and Read program since 1999. As I transitioned from residency to a Parkland community pediatrics clinic, the book served as a multipurpose gift for me. It was obviously a gift for the patients and their families. Many of these families do not have books in the home, and this emphasizes early on the importance of reading. The book is also a gift serving as a developmental screening tool. I can observe motor skills, attention span, language skills and interpersonal skills as I share the book during the visit.  But most importantly, it serves as a gift to get me physically situated near a fearful 18 month old! I often listen to Clifford’s heart and look in Dora’s ears before I touch the child. Trust me, it works more often than not. Many children who have been my patients for years will ask me for a book every time they come see me. We have a cart in front of my office door with used donated books for kids and their siblings to search for their favorite. I am now an attending for pediatric residents in their continuity clinic, and Reach Out and Read is a favorite part of their interaction with children. The look of disappointment on the faces of our young doctors when we are out of books rivals the sad looks our patients give us when the doctor enters empty handed. Reach Out and Read is a program that is easy to incorporate into a pediatric practice without adding much additional time to each visit. Garrison Keillor put it well when he said “A book is a gift you can open again and again.”                  

Kyla Rankin, LMSW, of Parkland Health and Hospital System, Homeless Outreach Medical Services (HOMES) took me on a tour of one of the traveling vans that visits area shelters to provide healthcare on location.  Medical providers on the van shared that using the book during a pediatric visit can give important information about developmental concerns.

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Tiffany Kindratt, MPH, Assistant Professor in the Department of Physician Assistant Studies at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, invited me to observe an Objective Structured Clinical Exam (OSCE), which is a mock patient encounter, Friday, April 8th.  This OSCE focused on the students introducing Reach Out and Read to young patients and their families.  Patti Pagels, PA provided feedback on the process and I was invited to share about the impact of the program.  Photos of some of the volunteer families and the students during the OSCE.


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Dr. Becky Huston, Section Chief of General Pediatrics, Professor of Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine, Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, invited me to speak at the annual Friends of Alamo City Reach Out and Read Early Literacy Conference in San Antonio on Friday, May 6th.  This year’s event was hosted by CentroMed and was well attended.  Dr. Huston spoke on the AAP’s new policy statement on poverty and child health and the impact of chronic stress on brain development.  I shared general program notes and encouraged participants to evaluate how they present the book to children and use it during the exam.  Several other wonderful speakers shared on their areas of expertise: Vikki Ash, PhD, Coordinator of Children’s Services, San Antonio Public Library, as always, was delightful in sharing her love and expertise in reading with children; Linda Hamilton, Director of Professional Development, City of San Antonio PreK4SA Program, shared about how their program fits in with early childhood education options in the area; Toni Sturdivant, Professional Development Coach, City of San Antonio PreK4SA, gave a motivating talk on the Nature Deficit—pointing out that chickens and prisoners get more mandated outdoor time than the school children of Texas; and finally, Pamela Toman, Executive Director of Literacy San Antonio, shared their exciting strides in facing the literacy challenges in San Antonio.

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Juan Parra, MD, MPH of CentroMed shares their book nook created with support from Little Engine Homecare, Inc.  Kim Tyler, Marketing Coordinator and Jerry Martinez, Sr. Marketing Coordinator for Little Engine Homecare, Inc. participated in the Literacy Conference and provided breakfast for all the participants.

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I had many great visits during my trip to San Antonio with folks sharing their programs with me.  One highlight was my visit to the University Family Health Center-Southeast .  Andrew Garza, MHA, Administrative Director, introduced me to Michele Careñas, who meticulously tracks books in a binder, tracking the child, book title, age range, etc...  They also ensure at this site that the books are easy to access and identify at the beginning of a visit.  Mr. Garza also utilizes local services.  They have a branch of the San Antonio Public Library right next door so he shares their Every Child Ready to Read literature and encourages referrals to the library. 

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Broadway at the Hobby Center held a book drive for Reach Out and Read Texas during their performances of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast in April and cast members shared a reading time with patients at Texas Children’s Hospital

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Reach Out and Read

Scholastic, Inc. just announced that it will be donating 20,000 books to the Texas Coalition (Affiliate) of Reach Out and Read!  10,000 books will be shipped to sites in June, an additional 10,000 books will be shipped in January of 2017.  I am so pleased to have this additional resource for sharing books with your programs.
Please remember that decisions about assignment of the precious gift of additional books is determined by criteria that reflect fidelity to the Reach Out and Read model:

  • up-to-date on progress reporting,
  • medical providers completing the online CME training,
  • active site participation in the full model—seeking community support and collaborations
  • and, essentially, reflecting an understanding that the core message of Reach Out and Read is to encourage parents to talk, sing and read with their children.

I’ll be making final decisions about site selection in the next week and will confirm shipping dates as I receive them.  Enjoy sharing the books with the children!

Find Us Online:

The easiest way to show your support for Reach Out and Read Texas is by "liking" us on Facebook or “following” us on Twitter.  We work to provide program updates, early literacy news, and resources for parents, educators, and medical providers.  Please join the conversation today! 


The editorial staff of the The Reach Out and Read Newsletter would like to hear from you.  Please submit your comments, suggestions, and questions to Jocelyn McConnell, M.Ed. at .

Summer 2016

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Newsletter Contributors

Jocelyn McConnell, M.Ed.
ROR-TX Director

Bang Pham
Web Developer IV

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