AUSTIN, Minn. — When a child arrives for a checkup on the Austin campus of Mayo Clinic Health System – Albert Lea and Austin, the child’s provider first gives him or her not an examination or a vaccination, but a book.
The program is Reach Out and Read, and it is possible on the Austin campus thanks to donations from the Mayo Clinic Health System Austin Health Care Foundation and the Austin Rotary Club.
"The Austin Health Care Foundation is pleased to partner with the Austin Rotary Club on this meaningful effort to promote families reading together,” says Mary Anne Wolesky, Foundation and Development Director on the Albert Lea and Austin campuses. “The positive impact of the provider joining in on that effort enhances the whole experience as a happy and joyful part of the visit for the child and parent. The providers love this as well."
Research shows that the first five years of life are critical for learning literacy skills, and 90 percent of children visit a medical center for their well child appointments. “The provider begins the appointment by giving the child an age-appropriate book,” says Michelle Bumgardner, R.N. and site coordinator of the program, “so not only are we promoting literacy, we’re establishing a positive relationship between the child and family and the provider.”
Promoting literacy and establishing strong familial relationships are two of the reasons the Austin Rotary Club chose to become involved in the program.
“The Austin Rotary Club has had a literacy focus for many years,” says Amy Baskin, Austin Rotary Club treasurer. “We are especially interested in early literacy and are honored to partner with Mayo and other community organizations in an effort to increase the literacy skills of the Austin community.
“Austin Rotary club distributed dictionaries to every third grade student in Austin for more than 10 years,” she adds. “Our recent shift to early literacy is a result of the research that shows the impact and importance of early literacy.”
From left: Dale Wicks and Ted Hinrichs, Austin Rotary Club board members; Duane Feragen, Austin Rotary Club past president; Amy Baskin, Austin Rotary Club treasurer; Shayana De Silva, M.D., Mayo Clinic Health System pediatrician; Jerry McCarthy, Mayo Clinic Health System Austin Foundation president; Paul Baessler, Austin Rotary Club president; and Steve Thorson, Austin Rotary Club incoming president.