Active Listening Tips and Tricks for Parents and Caregivers

by Stefanie Estes

Recently, I had the opportunity to take an intensive active listening course on I was interested in incorporating the skill into my everyday professional interactions. Active listening is essentially giving a speaker your full and undistracted attention, and, upon reflection, I found that the tools I learned during the course would also be quite useful in parenting my school-aged children. Therefore, I present the dos and don’ts of effective active listeners in the following list:

  • Do pay attention to body language and tone
    Note your child’s feelings and non-verbal cues in your feedback – If you notice that your child’s tone is off or that their shoulders are slumped, say something like, “You don’t sound/look so happy about that.”
  • Don’t offer your internal judge’s response
     That voice that scares you away from doing/saying things is your internal judge. Putting your own fears, your own judge, at the forefront of a conversation is not constructive.
  • Do try to keep an open mind
    If you ask probing, non-judgmental questions, your child will be more likely to realize possible stumbling blocks in their plans on their own through talking it out with you.
  • Don’t attempt to mind-read or multi-task
    Interrupting with what you think your child will say next interrupts their thought process, and by ignoring your buzzing phone when your child speaks, you are indicating to them that their words are important.
  • Do ask clarifying questions
    Active listening does not mean that you passively wait to interrupt as your child tells you a long story about their day. It is important to interrupt with clarifying questions to gain insight as you remain focused on what your child is trying to say.
  • Remember: “My presence is a present and I am an ally.”
    Active listening is an investment in your relationship with your child.

Source: Powers, Lauren. “Active Listening: You Can Be a Great Listener.” Udemy. Accessed October 25, 2022.

November Medical Minute

November Medical Minute with ROR-KC Medical Director
Sallie Page-Goertz, MN, APRN, CPNP, IBCLC

The year is streaking to a close. We’re heading into Thanksgiving season, and holiday marketing frenzies!  Those of you who support ROR-KC with gifts of time and treasure are why we are so thankful this year. We’re making our budget and we’re anticipating the ability to add several more clinics to our coalition thanks to your generous gifts. 

This is also the time of year when providers begin to feel stressed with the numbers of ill children. The New York Times headline: the Tridemic – Covid, Influenza and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus)! RSV infections started months earlier than usual, and children are being affected in numbers, overwhelming hospital systems in many communities including ours.

So, when we get to clinic for well child visits, it can be a big sigh of relief. The joy of watching little ones get their book, laugh at the stories, look at me or their parents as they are sharing their new book, is as they say, priceless! Nine-month-old Leah just started laughing while exploring her new animal book – her mom was pointing out the animals, naming them and asking Leah to point at them too! Definitely, raising a little girl who will be ready for kindergarten. Leah will learn so many new words from books that one doesn’t hear in day -to-day conversation. A recent article* mentioned that vocabulary size predicts later academic performance, behavioral regulation, and…even criminal convictions! So not only does one get the love from all of those snuggles, important brain building is happening that supports a child’s bright future!   For all the children attending our KC Metro pediatric clinic, you the donor are the key to helping that happen every day! As we approach this Thanksgiving season, know that ROR-KC is so grateful for each of you.

And putting my Nurse Practitioner hat on, a gentle reminder, or maybe not so gentle…. Are you immunized? Have you gotten all of the boosters you are eligible for yet? Vaccines continue to be important to reduce risk of serious infection, hospitalization and death for both Covid and Influenza. (Unfortunately, no effective RSV vaccine exists yet.)  Have you gotten you children their flu and Covid vaccines? Both are important to protect individuals as well as the community. Make sure you and your family get their Influenza immunization, and updated Covid boosters.

*Flack ZM, Field AP, Horst JS. 2018.The effects of storybook reading on word learning: A meta-analysis. Dev.Psych.54:1334-1346.

October Medical Minute

October Medical Minute with ROR-KC Medical Director
Sallie Page-Goertz, MN, APRN, CPNP, IBCLC

Boo! Fall festivals, Halloween happenings, influenza vaccines for everybody 6 months and older…it’s hopefully a wonderful time of year for most. Every day in our clinics, providers are using the wonderful books provided with the help of our amazing donors, to encourage caregivers to read to their littles. Research has made it very clear that caring adults (and older siblings) being in conversation, reading, singing and playing with the youngest infants and children foster their language and vocabulary development.

An exciting new study published in Pediatrics reports that intensity of shared reading is associated with the risk of socio/emotional problems in preschoolers. Information was gathered on about 5700 young children; the majority were black and had public insurance. Social/emotional concerns were assessed by an Ages and Stages Questionnaire-Social/Emotional (ASQ:SE) completed by a child’s caregivers. Parents reported frequency of reading with their children prior to completing the ASQ:SE during primary care visits. Children with rare, shared reading had a higher risk of an abnormal ASQ:SE compared with those who experienced shared reading on most days. The journal editors conclude that “Reading promotion during primary care visits could support improved social-emotional development and related outcomes for young children.”

Isn’t it spooky that all of the providers at clinics participating in Reach Out and Read are doing just that!  Thank you to all who are helping us continue to promote early literacy skills, vocabulary building, and caregiver-child relationships – but also perhaps preventing social/emotional concerns down the road!

Stefanie’s Bookshelf – October

Friday Night Wrestlefest by J.F. Fox, illustrated by Micah Player
Published by Roaring Brook Press

Age Range: 3 – 7 years

I just had the best time reading Friday Night Wrestlefest to my children this week. The story demands to be read in a commanding announcer voice and I just love getting silly with voices at bedtime. The ensuing giggles is one of the sweetest gifts I can give to my family. Wrestlefest follows the joyous chaos a family creates together as they set up a wrestling ring in their living room before bedtime. But what happens when “Mama-rama” and “Big Bald Baby” join the in the fight with a dirty trick no one saw coming? Vibrant illustrations contrast beautifully with delightfully twisty alliteration to make this book a surefire story time hit. For a master class in silly commentary voicing, watch this World Wrestling Cats video featuring cute kittens battling for a mountain-high pile of chow. I also recommend visiting the author’s website for some fun family activities like creating your own wrestling personas. Happy reading!

– Stefanie Estes, M.L.S.

Stefanie Estes is the Book Coordinator for ROR-KC. She’s responsible for purchasing and organizing the delivery of 65,000 books annually to our partner clinics. 

September Medical Minute

Today I’m thinking about language – English, Spanish, Chuukese and more – and multilingualism.  Around 25% of children in our Reach Out and Read KC catchment area are growing up in homes where English is NOT the first language!  In the United States, the three most commonly spoken languages are English, Spanish, and to my surprise, French – though in Kansas and Missouri the third most commonly spoken language is…Mandarin. 

For our young patients who are English language learners, we recommend that within their household, they are encouraged to speak the primary language of that household.  Maintenance of the “home” language is important.  Development of strong skills in the home language helps to build English language skills.  It is important for them to be grounded in the primary language to learn grammar structure and rich vocabulary.  Children will be immersed in English in so many other ways, and will quickly learn a second, third or fourth language. Caregivers often feel that it is so critical for their children to learn English ASAP, that they are reluctant to be speaking their own primary language – this actually may impair a child’s learning if they are exposed to grammatically incorrect English at home.  

For those reading this who speak more than one language, I suspect you know that it’s a gift!  Bilingual/multilingual speakers are shown to have more nimble brains, higher paying jobs, later onset of dementia and more…in addition to being able to communicate with folks who are not yet comfortable in English.   Help your children learn a second or third language!  This expands their world view, their opportunities for travel, admission to top tier colleges and access to higher paying jobs.

“… it is only in America where the idea that one might speak in just one language has any traction. In many countries, second and third languages are taught as a matter of course.  It provides students with an understanding that we live in a global community in which one must come to understand other languages, history, and cultures.”            

 Stan Beiner, educator/researcher 2012

See this website for resources about raising bilingual children    American Speech-Language Hearing Association

Thanks to our amazing donors, ROR-KC has a wonderful collection of bilingual books in 26 different languages!  This way, caregivers can share the book in the language of origin, while at the same time, parents are supported in their own English language learning with the text.  Thank you all for your continued support that allows us to purchase these books.

May Medical Minute

School will be out for most kids soon! For pediatric offices, this means the beginning of school and sports physical season: preschool and kindergarten physicals for our littles and sports participation physicals for rising high schoolers. We give out LOTS of books and literacy advice during summer months especially to our 3, 4 and 5 year olds. It’s an exhausting, exciting time for many of the providers who participate with Reach Out and Read Kansas City! For our providers, there is nothing better than seeing a 4-year-old-patient hugging their new Kindergarten Bag—full of books and advice for parents regarding kindergarten readiness. And remember, data shows that children who have participated in Reach Out and Read are better prepared than their peers for kindergarten.

Summer is the time when we see more accidents, sunburns, poison ivy rashes and “malignant” mosquito bites! So, keep yourselves and your kids safe: sunscreen, bug repellant with DEET or permethrin (Skin-so-soft does NOT work!), appropriate life jackets during swimming/water sport participation, and of course helmets for trike/bike/skateboard riders.

AND most importantly, remember that all of our community public libraries have special summer programs for kids of all ages! Book reading challenges, in-library special events and more. For more information, visit:

Kansas City Public Library 

Kansas City Kansas Public Library

Mid-Continent Public Library  (Clay, Platte and Jackson Counties)

Johnson County Library

Leavenworth Public Library

As I do every month, a heartfelt thanks to our donors who make so many joyful moments happen for children, their families and our pediatric providers throughout the KC Metro area!  We couldn’t do this work without each one of you.

Seeking Refuge in a Children’s Book

Families that spend time reading aloud together build strong emotional bonds and relieve the stresses of everyday life by seeking refuge in a children’s book. Building these bonds is even more important for families that are displaced. At the Yale University School of Medicine Pediatric Refugee Clinic, located in New Haven, CT and led by Medical Director Dr. Camille Brown, hundreds of children of Afghan refugee families are being welcomed and cared for by the dedicated practitioners at the clinic. And because of Reach Out and Read, these families are encouraged to read aloud together during this stressful period in their lives.

More than 800 families that fled Afghanistan last fall have made Kansas City their new home. Reach Out and Read Kansas City has had the privilege to serve several families in some of our clinics in the Kansas City metro area. We have even been able to provide books in their native language to help with the difficult transition.

“These families endure decades of war in their homeland and are relocating to a new country with the added challenges of the COVID pandemic. We know that these layers of adversity can negatively impact the well-being of children and their families,” said Dr. Brown on the unique opportunity to connect with refugee families. “As a long-time Reach Out and Read clinic, we know that this evidence-based program is the best way for us to empower these families as their child’s first and best teachers to optimize child development and early relational health.” 

“Most Afghan families would only visit the doctor when ill, so the new US system of preventive medical care is met with appreciation and openness,” remarked Dr. Julia Rosenberg.  “To us, this indicated a willingness for family involvement, and the enthusiasm for preventative care makes Reach Out and Read a great fit. In addition, giving a family a book in their native language positively supports their language development, including their ability to learn English in school.” 

Integrating diverse books within a clinic setting aids in creating an environment that is welcoming and respectful of people from all backgrounds. Diverse and culturally responsive books have stories, images, and characters that accurately reflect and affirm a range of identities. These books provide children with mirrors of their own lives and experiences, as well as windows into the lives and experiences of other people. For the Afghan families arriving in a new country, books in their native languages of Pashto or Dari will help them feel welcome in the clinic and the community. The clinic is actively adding these and other representative books to give to the families.

April Medical Minute

Has Spring arrived yet? Maybe. Are we seeing lots of kids for well child visits? Definitely. Are we seeing kids that went missing during the pandemic surges? Yes, we still are seeing kids who missed one or more well child visits, in part due to their fear to come to our clinics! Do great books provided by Reach Out and Read Kansas City continue to bring joy to kids, families and providers? You bet!

This week my most joyful moment was seeing five-year-old Yoan. Some of you might remember that he is the child who received ROR-KC’s One Millionth Book in 2017. Click here to see the video. Now, we are celebrating ROR-KC’s 25th anniversary, and Yoan is so lucky to get yet another brand-new book to share with his older siblings and parents. We were sharing the book The Lion and the Mouse, a story of an unexpected friendship. We had a few minutes practicing “dialogic reading” – where the reader (me) asks the child (Yoan), “Do you think a mouse is usually a friend with a lion?” and “What do they think might happen next?” This brief interaction let me know that Yoan was comfortable with books, had age-appropriate conversation skills, and that his mother was so proud of how he was doing in kindergarten.

Then, I noticed the plastic sleeve containing Yoan’s immunization record. There was the picture of that One Millionth Book moment with baby Yoan that Mom has kept. Clinic staff members later told me she had showed the picture to all of them! A reminder that in the moment, we don’t always know the impact that the gift of a book and our advice can have on a child and family, but clearly for this child and family, the impact was powerful. So, to all of our supporters and donors – thank you for allowing hundreds of providers to bring moments of both joy and learning to thousands of children and their families every day, with the gift of a new, age-appropriate, culturally diverse book, and a prescription to read.

March Medical Minute

A Time For Hope

I am writing this looking out my window at sparkling snow … hoping for Spring. I am writing this with the news of escalating violence in Ukraine, hoping for peace. I am writing this worrying about families that decline a COVID vaccination for their kids, hoping for their health. (And, if any readers have questions or worries about vaccinating themselves or their kids, please email me at I am writing this with the hope and belief that one kiddo or one family Reach Out and Read Kansas City makes a difference for the future of each child and family we serve. Who knows? One of these little ones may be a future peacemaker in their community, country or even the world!

Recently, I gave the kindergarten book bag to four-year-old Jose. I asked him to point to his favorite color on the color wheel (this helps me assess his pre-kindergarten skills), and then he asked me what my favorite color was. We discussed our favorite animals on the next page – his is a snake! We had a great conversation about the scenes on the following pages – the messy room, the kids playing on the beach. In about three minutes, it was clear to me that his communication and cognitive skills were excellent – his kindergarten teacher is going to really enjoy him!

I also heard from a health provider, Vikki, at a county health department who described the reaction of a two-year-old upon receiving a new princess book, “It was like it was Christmas, she was so excited to have this book!”

Imagine thousands of interactions like this one happening every day in the Kansas City Metro – All between a provider, a book, a child and a family! The gift of a book, the advice on book sharing and the family’s ability to foster their child’s language development helps to support the child’s emerging literacy skills. At the same time, the gift of the book facilitates the developmental assessment by the provider and brings joy to all involved. These moments are made possible by your generosity! Thank you to all of our donors – your gifts are making a difference every day in the lives of children, families and health care providers across the Kansas City Metro.

Heartwarming Donation: Bookshelves of Generosity

Every one of us has a life story. This chapter of 16-year-old James McBride’s life is called giving back.

The Blue Valley Northwest sophomore wanted to make his mark at the Reach Out and Read Kansas City office and 16 partner pediatric clinic sites by creating branded bookshelves for his Eagle Scout project. This Reach Out and Read Kansas City specific bookshelf will be the staple of each pediatric clinic as a focal point for families and medical providers alike for shelving books, promotional materials and other educational resources. “The most rewarding part about making the bookshelves was realizing how important they will be for the clinics, as now they can display the books the children will receive at their well-child visits,” said James. “I chose Reach Out and Read Kansas City as my recipient because I’m passionate about reading and it pains me to think that a child will grow up without access to a book as my favorite growing up was ‘Goodnight Moon’.”

As each pediatric clinic is uniquely different, the red Reach Out and Read Kansas City bookshelf will be a universal symbol of our program’s mission of incorporating books into pediatric care and encouraging families to read aloud together. James’ bookshelf will have a lasting impression on the Reach Out and Read Kansas City supporters and pediatric providers/patients they serve. 

James’ goal is become an Eagle Scout by February and his family and friends also donated 70 brand new books! A big thank you to James for thinking of our program and demonstrating the true meaning of #ReadTogetherKC!

December Medical Minute

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Looking back to December 2020, it’s hard to imagine that a year later our lives would continue to be upended by COVID-19 and its variants. This December includes in-person school, a few in-person gatherings/meetings, and hundreds of injection visits to get the COVID-19 vaccine into the arms of children. Cities/counties and the states of Kansas and Missouri continue to be in turmoil regarding mask and vaccine mandates–causing our colleagues to wish that more legislators were grounded in science. Masks are still important, and the vaccines are a game changer – reducing (not eliminating) risk of illness, and hugely decreasing risk for serious illness, hospitalization and death. My 5 and 10-year-old grandchildren were close to first in line for their vaccine – and the whole family breathed a sigh of relief.

ROR-KC Medical Director and KU Pediatrics Nurse Practitioner Sallie Page-Goertz introducing Ariany to a new bedtime book!

I’d like to share with you a moment of joy during a recent well-child visit. Last week, I met Ariany, a 24-month-old who came with her mom for her check-up.

Recently, I gave “The Going to Bed Book” by Sandra Boynton to 24-month-old Ariany. She held it, smiled at the pictures, and her mom reported that she is reading and talking much more to Ariany. We talked about the importance of book sharing, talking and singing to encourage her language development. With the books – my assessment for each child took about a minute, didn’t involve asking lots of questions, and also provided me an opportunity to coach parents on book sharing with their little one. All of this happens hundreds of times a day in pediatric offices across the metro, with thanks to our donors.

With schools back open, pediatric offices resumed sports physicals, kindergarten physicals, normal well child visits, and LOTS of catch-up visits as families became more comfortable with being out in public with their children. So many wonderful new books are going home with children birth to age 5, along with that prescription to read, and of course, sick children, tag-along children, and older children will go home with a donated book as well! A shout-out to four local children who did a Halloween fundraiser- raising $250 to Reach Out and Read Kansas City that they then used to buy great new books to load into our shelves.

ROR-KC Kindergarten Book Bag given out at the four-year-old well-child visit.

Yesterday, I gave the kindergarten bag to Raul. We looked at the 500 Word book – he definitely could name his favorite color and show me the correct primary colors…counting, however, was interesting  “One, two, four, six, three”!  So this great book let me know that Raul’s family had some work to do to get him ready for kindergarten. We talked about reading to him, counting with him to support his efforts to learn. 

In looking forward to 2022, Reach Out and Read Kansas City staff and volunteers are ready for a celebration! It will be the 25th anniversary of Reach Out and Read Kansas City and it’s hard to believe that I and hundreds of pediatric health care providers in the area have had the joy of providing wonderful books, and the important prescription to read to literally millions of children over this time. With the ongoing support of our donors, will we be able to continue this important work of supporting children and families for the next 25 years.

Happy New Year and thank you for your support.

-Sallie Page-Goertz, MN, APRN, CPNP, IBCLC

November Medical Minute

Fall is in the air, kids might still be eating their Halloween treats, and health care providers are waiting to see what the winter season will bring. We anticipate a heavy season for respiratory infections – both the common cold, influenza and a variety of other viral respiratory illnesses. A reason that your pediatric care providers might be pushing you on the flu and COVID-19 vaccine issue. It’s possible, by the time you read this that we will have gotten approval for COVID-19 vaccination in children 5-11 years of age.

I’m happy to note that more children are getting caught up on their well-child visits and vaccine visits after many missed visits due to COVID-19 related fears. Sarah, pictured here, is one of my little patients who was in recently for her check-up and boosters. She was so excited to get her book! Mom started pointing to the animals and noted that Sarah really enjoys looking at the books we’ve given her.

The recent high profile death of former Secretary of State, Colin Powell, who was fully vaccinated at age 84 and who had multiple underlying health problems might make folks wonder if the COVID-19 vaccine is indeed helpful. 

Colin Powell's 13 rules for how to lead | ShareAmerica
Colin Powell, former Secretary of State
Credit: Corbis via Getty Images

It is important to note that the vast majority of those in the hospital with COVID-19 now are those who did not get vaccinated.  So here’s the deal, no vaccine is 100% effective in preventing disease.  Some vaccines perform better than others. In particular, the COVID-19 vaccines have performed very well at reducing risk of illness, hospitalization and death. Hospitalization rates for unvaccinated teenagers is 10 fold greater than for those who have been vaccinated. COVID-19 hospitalizations for infants – age 4 have increased 10 times since the arrival of the delta variant – Like the old, these youngsters are more vulnerable.

Those who are more vulnerable (old, very young, or with underlying health problems) are not without risk. The rest of us get our vaccines to increase protection for the vulnerable – this is called cocooning – a cocoon of protected individuals around the vulnerable. It’s about the community! My kids can’t wait for the COVID-19 vaccine to be available for our grandchildren ages 6 and 10! Ask your child’s health care provider about all your questions or worries, and look to only reliable sources for your information. Please click here to be directed to the CDC website.

-Sallie Page-Goertz, MN, APRN, CPNP, IBCLC

October Medical Minute

For 21 years, the KU Family Medicine Clinic has been proudly serving families in partnership with the Reach Out and Read program. 

No photo description available.

Dr. Butler is certified by the American Board of Family Medicine. She completed a fellowship at Swedish Medical Center First Hill. In 2011, she earned her medical degree from the University of Kansas School of Medicine and completed her residency at Oregon Health and Science University.

KU Family Medicine’s organized book system for well-child visits birth-age 5. Each colored dot represents a different age-appropriate book.

“Reach Out and Read Kansas City has been great for our patients at KUMC Family Medicine. My favorite part of the well-child visit is handing the book to the family and asking about reading habits. Children always look forward to getting their books and at times we can use this as a distraction during injections.”

James and the Giant Peach: Dahl, Roald, Blake, Quentin: 9780142418239: Books

Growing up in a house full of books, reading has always been a big part of Dr. Butler’s life. She grew up in Topeka, Kansas and her favorite children’s book as a child was “James and the Giant Peach”.

“The Reach Out and Read program means we can continue to share our love of learning and help to increase literacy in Kansas City. I love the special moment when I get to talk to families about reading. It feels magical when families learn about the benefits of reading. Having books we can hand to families helps to reinforce their importance.”

-Dr. Faith Butler, MD

September Medical Minute

Area schools have been in session for a month already! Most children are masking, and our older children are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination.    

Back to school after COVID-19 | LiteracyPlanet

During clinic appointments with my patients, in addition to bringing joy to all with the gift of a book, I’m spending a lot of time and effort talking to families about their questions around COVID-19, the delta variant and vaccinations for children.

The COVID-19 vaccine is approved for children over 12-years-old. We expect approval for children over 5 perhaps in November. Although, hundreds of thousands of children have already received their vaccinations and worrisome side effects have been extraordinarily rare. 

Pediatric health professionals, public health professionals, and the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommend children get their jab, the sooner the better.

Pediatricians Want Kids to Be Part of COVID Vaccine Trials | Kaiser Health  News
Picture Credit: Getty Images

Vaccinations prevent hospitalization and death for both children and adults. Some vaccinated people do get COVID-19 however their illness is usually mild, and hospitalization/death extremely rare.

The Delta variant and COVID-19 in children:

Viruses change -that is their nature. These changes are called mutations or variants. The virus causing COVID-19 has had a number of mutations. The DELTA mutation (or variant) is more contagious, causes more serious illness, and as of this writing, is the cause of more than 90% of current hospitalizations/deaths from COVID-19 in our community and nationwide. The Delta variant is more contagious. When COVID-19 first began, 1 person could easily spread it to 2+ people. Now, people ill with the Delta variant can easily spread it to 8-10 people. Many more children are being hospitalized with COVID-19, including requiring intensive care treatment. More children have died. COVID-19 is now amongst the top 10 causes of death in children. Children are experiencing “long COVID” – lingering brain fog, fatigue, persistent loss of smell/taste and other problems. The Delta variant is extremely contagious. This means that 90% or more of the population needs to be vaccinated to prevent spread. This information is scary. It can feel overwhelming. As a parent, you want to keep your children safe. Thankfully, we each have the power to keep ourselves and others safe.

Please ONLY use trusted sources for your information. Click here and here for more resources.  If you see something on your social media or preferred news channel that you wonder about– contact your child’s pediatric provider’s office to get the information you need.

Here are some new great books to help frame the COVID-19 experience for your children:

Dr. Fauci: How a Boy from Brooklyn Became America’s Doctor by Kate Messner – a wonderful picture book about Dr. Fauci – from his childhood in Brooklyn to his public health career and how he’s helped to keep us all safe.  Information about vaccines, and tips for the future scientist at your house.

When the World Turns Upside Down by K. Ibura: A heartwarming story of friendship and overcoming adversity in a time of COVID, It is about community, giving back, and understanding the world around us through the power of generosity.

There is a Rainbow by Theresa Trinder– “A reassuring text and upbeat illustrations get to the heart of our shared COVID-19 experience-gently acknowledging loss and uncertainty while offering a message of hope and resilience”. Review by The Horn Book

-Sallie Page-Goertz, MN, APRN, CPNP, IBCLC

Welcome New Board Member Derek Gale!

As an avid reader as a child, Derek Gale’s passion for literacy grew even more into adulthood.

“I realized much later in life how fortunate I was to have access to the world of books and stories, as well as encouragement from my family. I’ve been equally as fortunate to be able to provide similar access and encouragement to my children,” says Derek.

Before joining the Reach Out and Read Kansas City Advisory Board, Derek did his homework.

“I was looking to get involved in a local organization that promoted early childhood literacy, thanks to my love for reading to children and reading with my own young children, as well as experiences I’ve had through another children’s books program in the Jewish community called ‘PJ Library’. I did some exploring and decided I’d start by offering to volunteer for ROR-KC events or committees. That led me to the Race to Read Committee,” says Derek.

Derek is the Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City, with experience in fundraising and grants. Derek and his wife, Amy, are both Kansas City natives and have a son starting kindergarten this fall and a daughter in preschool. 

Little Pea - NC Kids Digital Library - OverDrive

His enthusiasm for literacy led him to joining the Reach Out and Read Kansas City Advisory Board. Derek wants to help other children gain access to books as early as possible so that they too, can have the countless advantages of reading and learning at a young age.

“Reading and activating your imagination is an amazing way to learn and explore, and is an opportunity everyone deserves to have. I am grateful for the opportunity to help advocate for that and help provide that for others,” says Derek. “I’m a big fan of “Little Pea” by Amy Krouse Rosenthal.”

Welcome, Derek, and thank you for sharing your time and talents with us!

Fun Fact: Derek started Kansas City Restaurant Week!

Books On Tap 2021 Sneak Peek

Consider yourself booked for Books On Tap, Thursday, September 16th! 

Click here to get your Early Bird Tickets TODAY! Order by August 16th to get the Early Bird discount! A limited number of tickets are available. Attendees must be 21 & over.

Chicken N Pickle | Visit KC
Photo from VisitKC

Reach Out and Read Kansas City’s 10th annual fall fundraiser, Books On Tap, will take place at Chicken N Pickle‘s spacious indoor and outdoor rooftop. With beautiful views of downtown Kansas City, you’ll be enjoying ice cold beverages and delicious food with your favorite literacy supporters.

Strike a pose with our event Photo Booth, grab a mystery bottle of wine at our Wine Pull, and enjoy one-of-a-kind raffle and Silent Auction items. If you win a raffle prize you may find yourself on a pickleball court!

The Silent Auction goes live September 2nd with plenty of time to bid on your favorite items before we announce the winners on event night. You do not need to attend event to participate in the Silent Auction.

Cheers to literacy!

August Medical Minute

Cockerell & McIntosh Pediatrics has been serving families in eastern Jackson County since 1950. We have offices in Independence, Blue Springs and Higginsville. Although COVID-19 slowed things down for a while, our clinics are getting busy again and that’s exciting because kids are getting their check-ups, immunizations and new books!

I have worked in the Independence office for almost 22 years and Cockerell & McIntosh Pediatrics has participated with the Reach Out and Read program for almost 14 years. Last week a two-year-old little boy was lifting the flaps in his new book and discovered an elephant. He proceeded to stomp around and try to make an elephant noise.

Cockerell & McIntosh Pediatrics, 3964, 11200 E Winner Rd, Independence, MO  64052, USA
Dr. Beck with a patient

I get so tickled when I see little children tuck their book under their arm and march down the hallway, proud to have a new book to take home. Books are fun but can also be comforting. While I was doing a check-up on a baby girl who was getting fussy, the baby’s sister began reading her new book to comfort her. Reach Out and Read also provides used books for our waiting rooms and exam rooms which help entertain children when they get restless while waiting in the office. One book that we give out is about rooms in a house. A little girl found the bedroom page and I asked her if she could find the page about the kitchen. Later in the visit while I was talking with her mother, she ran over to me extremely excited and exclaimed, “I found the kitchen!”

Essential Kids Guide to Denver

I grew up in Fairway, Kansas and went to medical school at the University of Kansas School of Medicine. One special book memory I have from my childhood was when my third-grade teacher read Charlotte’s Web to the class.  As a parent I have enjoyed reading so many books to my boys including The Mouse and the Motorcycle, Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See, Spookely the Square Pumpkin, Bear Snores On, Trumpet of the Swan, Curious George and the Ice Cream Shop and many, many others.

When I am not at the office, I like to create photo books from my children’s artwork, schoolwork and the many photos that my husband takes.  I also love to read, play board games and go camping with my family.

It was a joy to bring a love of books to my own children and I hope to do the same for my patients with the help of the Reach Out and Read Program. 

-Dr. Annette Beck, MD

July Medical Minute

Summertime means normally a very busy time in pediatric clinics! 

This summer, it seems like quite a bit of “catch up” after last year’s pandemic summer. Summer of 2020 was VERY different – many pediatric and family medicine offices essentially only saw acutely ill children for a short or longer period of weeks as we were learning about this virus, and how to keep both staff and patients safe. Some practices opened back to normal pretty quickly, others did not. 

I’m seeing a number of children who missed 18-month or 3-year-visits out of fear of exposure to COVID-19. Data from the Centers for Disease Control indicate that purchase of doses of routine childhood vaccines plummeted during the initial phase of the pandemic in 2020. We know that many children missed well-child and vaccine visits. This is causing officials to fear outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases like measles, chickenpox and whooping cough when children return to school this fall. If you’re a parent, and you’ve put off that well-child/vaccine update visit, call your health care provider’s office now.

Pediatric Clinic - Hennepin Healthcare

One element that has remained the same for most pediatric offices is the empty waiting room! Folks check in and are immediately taken to an examination room, without stopping. The good news is that most offices have really increased their efficiency to keep waiting rooms empty.  The bad news is, we are really missing our literacy rich waiting rooms and amazing volunteers who were such an important part of the Reach Out and Read model in Kansas City.  It’s really hard to know if that will change. Right now, our youngest children aren’t eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. Until kids can be vaccinated, and 80+ percent of teens/adults are vaccinated, it’s hard to think we will be able to go back to a pre-COVID literacy rich waiting room experience for our families. That just means our providers and clinic staff have to work hard to deliver the message about the importance of talk, read, sing, play to our young patients, so that children will come to have a love of books, and be eager to learn to read when they hit kindergarten!  

Thank you to all for continuing to support the Reach Out and Read mission!  (And…get YOUR COVID vaccine ASAP.  To find where to get your vaccine, visit to find vaccination providers near you. Or, text your zip code to 438829 or call 1-800-232-0233)

-Sallie Page-Goertz, MN, APRN, CPNP, IBCLC

June Medical Minute

My name is Krista Cox and I mainly grew up in Garden City, KS. Back then, it was small town life. I would walk to town end for end numerous times a week. You could not go any where without knowing people. Because of the numerous feed lots surrounding the city and my allergies, I was often ill and saw my pediatrician frequently. I grew to admire him and what he did, eventually he was the reason for me wanting to practice pediatrics.

Baby & Child Associates was founded in 1979 by the late Dr. Frank Vaughters right here in the heart of Kansas City. We have spent over 40 years dedicated to the health and wellbeing of our patients from birth to young adulthood.

Dr. Cox with a patient in July 2020.

I have been practicing at Baby and Child Associates since December 1999 and did my training at Children’s Mercy Hospital.  Reach Out and Read started in the Kansas City area while I was in residency and was there for the origination of the program locally.  When I left residency, I specifically asked my new employer if they would be willing to start ROR in the clinic.  It was a resounding yes! Baby and Child Associates became the first non- KU/non Children’s Mercy site. 

ROR-KC is a lifeline for our families and patients. Over the 20+ years I have worked at Baby and Child Associates, I have seen a dramatic shift in parents’ attitudes about reading. I used to hear continually that they do not read as daycare doesn’t. Now, reading is part of our families culture. The kids come in asking for books and infants immediately grab the books and mouth them. The parents usually recognize this is normal now and do not scold the infant and take the book away. I have as young as 9-month-old patients that will tell me book and give me a huge smile when I hand them the book. I see that a larger percentage of our patients are ready for kindergarten than when I first started here and that almost all of our young patients value books and like being read to. ROR-KC has made a difference in my clinic by giving me a tool to help children succeed in life, as it has enabled them to have books in the home beginning at a young age. This is a total change in culture of our patient population.

-Dr. Krista Cox, MD

May Medical Minute

Summer is rapidly approaching and we all know what that means-summer reading! One of the main factors that worries educators is what is known as “Summer Slide”, the time when children and families seem to forget about school, and reading, unfortunately resulting in a huge loss of learning.

These losses are more dramatic for children from economically disadvantaged families. Several factors lead to this Summer Slide, as reported by Scholastic: lack of understanding by parents of the Summer Slide, no or little reading by children or by caregivers to children and lack of access to books when schools are closed. In 2018, 20% of children ages 6-17 report reading ZERO books during the summer!

Economically disadvantaged parents (income under $35K/year) are less likely to be aware of  summer slide concerns compared to advantaged parents (Income >34K) by a 20-point margin.

When schools are closed for the summer, children have less access to books.  It may be hard or nearly impossible for families to take advantage of libraries with the challenges of awareness, work schedules and transportation.  The good news is that ROR-KC helps fill the gap. Providing children with books of their own is a powerful tool to support their ongoing early literacy and literacy skills.  Fostering the love of books later becomes a love of reading and love of learning.

-Sallie Page-Goertz, MN, APRN, CPNP, IBCLC

  1. Scholastic Kids & Family Reading Report, 7th ed.  2019.The Summer Reading Imperative

April Medical Minute

“At the beginning of the COVID-19 restrictions one mother commented how she missed the ROR-KC volunteer that would sit and read with her children at our clinic. When the book was opened the children recognized it as ‘reading time’. The books we were giving during the visit were the tools mom needed for that ‘reading time’ at home.” said Maria Reyes.

Reach Out and Read Helping Patients in South Philadelphia | Children's  Hospital of Philadelphia

“ROR-KC has great significance to us as providers, development specialists, and nursing support staff in providing the opportunity to stress the importance of early reading to our parents and guardians. In a world focusing on technology, ROR-KC is a core product and process for early learning and developing a love for books. It is exciting to see an infant or toddler smile upon receiving of a book in clinic, opening the pages and pointing, a great indication that they have that experience at home,” said Dr. Pankey and Maria Reyes.

Donor Spotlight: Gina Kellogg

Every action you take for Reach Out and Read helps a child develop a love of reading.

Gina Kellogg’s career has given her a deep appreciation for the power of literacy and how it can literally change the life of a child.

“Several years ago, I worked for an international humanitarian organization,” she said. “In that job, I visited the homes of children to document their circumstances. I developed a very personal understanding of how crucial literacy is in helping families break the cycle of poverty. Parents who’ve grown up without this knowledge don’t know what they don’t know — they don’t know how important it is to read to their children or encourage them in their studies,” she explained. “So, the cycle continues. But when you can educate parents about how crucial literacy is to their children’s futures, then they become eager to do whatever they can to empower their kids.”

Gina understands that it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by turning on the news and seeing all the hardship people face. But she believes committing to make life better for children and families in your own city is a good place to start.

“People can’t imagine making a difference. But when they understand their donations and volunteer efforts directly impact the children in their own city? That is a very empowering feeling!”

She’s also familiar with the challenges many nonprofits face in planning budgets from year to year. That’s why she’s a monthly donor to ROR-KC and has involved her employer, Ascend Learning, in supporting ROR-KC as well.

“Nonprofits must have regular gifts coming in to help them plan their resources appropriately,” she said. “Can you imagine trying to pay your own bills each month not knowing how much income you’d have coming in? By helping ROR-KC plan more effectively with monthly gifts, we can reach even more families. I’m also very lucky to work for a company, Ascend Learning, that has a strong philanthropic bent. It was a no-brainer when I realized I could get the message about ROR-KC in front of that many more people.”

Gina believes every action taken to help a child develop a love of reading and learning is significant. She also encourages others to join her in supporting the work of ROR-KC.

“Never, ever imagine that your donations or volunteer efforts can’t have an impact. They can. And they do!. If you don’t have the monetary means to help, organize a book drive, stuff envelopes for mass mailings, volunteer at a sorting/labeling event, or read to children at local clinics affiliated with ROR-KC. The opportunities to help are truly endless!”

“I strongly encourage others to join me as a monthly donor (only a $10/month minimum donation). Or, if you’d simply like to make a single donation, you can do that too. ($70 provides 1 child with a personal library of 15 books.) Click here to become a month donor today, just like Gina, and make a forever impact.

— Gina Kellogg, RORKC Monthly Donor

March Medical Minute

We are now a full year into the pandemic and with vaccines becoming increasingly available, there is definitely a light in the proverbial tunnel! 

pediatrics | Reach Out And Read Kansas City

When I orient new residents in pediatrics and family medicine, my focus is on the importance of the gift of the book to their patients’ healthy development. We know that book reading/book sharing leads to robust language development. We know propping a book on the floor helps a baby begin to enjoy tummy time, and we know that book sharing enhances the child/caregiver relationship. I think I sometimes forget to speak to the special memories that are made during those book-sharing times! 

My sons are now 40 and 35-years-old, and yet I still remember very specific stories that we shared. I can see Christopher in Kenn’s lap listening to “Mr. Brown Can Moo” and Kenn’s reading of the thunder and lightning page was SO dramatic, that he had to then skip that page for a while because 15-month-old Christopher was a bit scared of those loud sounds! Pretty soon, Christopher would imitate those sounds during the reading.  Both kids loved “Little Bunny Follows His Nose“.

Little Bunny Follows His Nose by Katherine Howard

I have two copies of that book in the “too special to give away box” because the scratch and sniff patches were worn out with the many readings. Now, Kenn and I enjoy reading to our grandkids, currently by Zoom, continuing to make those special memories!  

Thanks to you, our donors, health providers across the Kansas City metro have the opportunity to help families make special memories, thanks to the gift of a book and the advice on book-sharing.  We know that book reading and book sharing leads to robust language development. We can’t do this without you! 

-Sallie Page-Goertz, MN, APRN, CPNP, IBCLC

February Medical Minute

ROR-KC is an integral part of my work day as a community pediatrician interacting with underserved and uninsured/underinsured children and their families. I see children from a diverse background, across multiple cultures, language barriers, economic levels and immigration status.

Reach out and Read CO - Wanna Pixel

For this age group (birth-age 5) seeing their parents, caregivers, physicians behind masks covering up their normal facial expressions and learning again how to respond in a new way was another learning curve and I am sure anxiety provoking. Specifically, infants and toddlers who need visual cues for many things and reciprocate with fascial gesturers, eye tracking and fixation in response to ­­­­­the surrounding audio and visual stimuli. ROR-KC has brought to light a completely new meaning and implementation this past year with all the uncertainty during the COVID-19 lockdown. When everything shut down for an unknown timeframe parents had a heightened anxiety. Also, regarding health care for infants and younger children who were at an additional risk of missing timely well-child visits, immunizations and a pediatrician’s ability to track their neurodevelopmental progress. All this is imperative and solely dependent on in person clinical evaluation.

Essential Kids Guide to Denver

It was personally amazing to note that one thing did not change. Observing the behaviors and responses of infants and toddlers on receiving books on their routine well child checks at the outset of their clinical evaluation, now by a masked pediatrician still evoked the same curiosity about colorful pictures, catching images and imaginative stories. I was so delighted when I heard almost similar narration repetitively by more than dozen parents and families that since COVID-19 lockdown they were able to stay home and read or even re-read ROR-KC books given on all previous appointments as well as given to siblings. They were even more excited and motivated to come to their well child check as soon as safety measures with pandemic allowed us to see them in-person.

-Dr. Hibba Haider, MD

For the Love of Books Breakfast Bags

On January 20th, support Reach Out and Read Kansas City’s Virtual For the Love of Books Breakfast with a For the Love of Books Breakfast Bag! Proceeds go directly back into our mission of giving young children a foundation for success by incorporating books into pediatric care and encouraging families to read aloud together.

For the Love of Books Breakfast Bag

Each Breakfast Bag will include: Custom ROR-KC tote bag, (1) $100 Toner Jewelers Gift Card, (1) $25 Caffetteria/The Mixx Gift Card, For the Love of Books Brew by The Roasterie, ROR-KC Hand Sanitizer, Brand new children’s book by author Sandra Magsamen, Nothing Bundt Cakes BOGO. Not pictured due to freshness of products: (1) 3 oz. Honey Jar from Messner Bee Farm, (1) Cup Cookie token from McLain’s, (1) ROR-KC Customized Cookie from Midwest Cookie Co. and Orange Juice donated by Hy-Vee.

Limited quantity of 50 at $75 each ($125 value) with safe delivery to your doorstep on February 9th. KC metro only.

Click here on January 20th to grab yours!

January Medical Minute

It’s a new year and it’s hard to believe that so much time has passed since our lives have been upended with COVID-19 restrictions. One constant throughout the uncertainty is ROR-KC and its continued ability to touch the lives of children and families in the clinics we serve.

Pediatric practices are up and running, mostly at pre-pandemic levels, while getting kids caught up on their well-child visits, vaccinations, the gifts of books and literacy advice. Some pediatric providers are taking advantage of technology for telehealth visits to follow up on problems that the child was previously seen for like bellyaches, headaches, or concerns about behavior – the type of visit where conversation is the most important element! In-person visits continue to be popular for those birth to 5-year-old well child visits, one cannot give vaccines or books over a computer screen! 

Dr. Heather VonBevern

My colleague, Dr. Heather VonBevern told me this recent, heartwarming story to welcome the new year: “A sweet little 2 and a half year-old girl was in for her 30 month well-child visit. She is the third of four girls in her family and when I handed her the book “Goodnight Moon”, which they already have at home, she wanted to keep it because she wants her own copy of the book. While I examined her baby sister, she told me all about the book and made up stories about all the toys and dolls. She wasn’t reading or reciting the words, but was making it up as she went. It was absolutely the sweetest thing! I love watching kids grow up with books from ROR-KC.” said Dr. VonBevern.

Goodnight Moon (Anniversary) (Paperback) - -

Dr. VonBevern, like all of our doctors, understands that this gift of an ROR-KC book is more than just a book. It is a gift that fosters relationships between children and parents, and between children, families and their healthcare providers. There is nothing better than snuggling up with a book or helping a child to develop a love for books, which later translates into a lifetime love of reading. 

We at Reach Out and Read KC are so thankful for the donors that make it all happen!

-Sallie Page-Goertz, MN, APRN, CPNP, IBCLC

Board Member Spotlight: AbdulRasak Yahaya

Reach Out and Read Kansas City is excited to share the many faces behind our organization who give their time and resources to investing in the lives of youth in our community.

It’s time to highlight our Board Member and Membership Chair AbdulRasak Yahaya! She has been with ROR-KC since July 2019.

When AbdulRasak Yahaya was young, his father read to him from his UMKC civil engineering books. “Lucky for me, my mom read me more age-appropriate bedtime stories,” says Abdul, “but this balance of reading is what allowed me to eliminate the achievement/opportunity gap in my own life and become a successful entrepreneur.”  

Through the two Open Minds Child Development Center locations that he and his wife Alicia, started, and by joining the Reach Out and Read Kansas City Board. “My passion and business align directly with ROR-KC’s mission.” He says he had a true “ah-ha” moment when his three daughters (aged nine, six and three) received books at their well-child visits (likely from ROR-KC). “My daughters looked forward to their pediatric visits because of the memories we created with the books received.” He says he was thrilled to be asked to join the board. “I was celebrating on the inside and excited to use my skills as a transformational leader to invigorate the KC Metro to “Reach Out and Read!”

Take a moment to get to know Abdul above!

Stay tuned for our next Board Member Spotlight next month!

A Feel-Good Tax Break: Give Back!

Consider accelerating your cash contributions to take advantage of limited-time tax benefits! The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act created a new universal deduction of up to $300 for gifts made to public charities by taxpayers who will claim the standard deduction on their 2020 Federal income tax return.

For donors who itemize, up to 100% of their Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) can be deducted for gifts made to public charities. Ask your tax or financial advisor if making a gift before December 31 can give a boost to your favorite charity ­­and reduce your 2020 tax bill!  

1.)   What are the benefits of the new 2020 Tax Breaks as a donor? 

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act created a temporary tax benefit for cash donations to qualifying charities in 2020—so now is the time to act! Essentially, it is a $300 “above-the-line” deduction for non-itemizers. That means that people who are not giving at massive levels or otherwise do not have more than $24,800 ($12,400 if single) in tax deductions still get a charitable deduction. If a taxpayer does have more than those amounts and is itemizing, there is no limitation on the charitable deduction where we usually have about a 60% limit. There are also temporary rules for corporations to maximize the tax impact of their giving that employers or business owners can utilize this year.

2.)   How can I get started?

Reach out to your tax advisor and confirm that your favorite charity will qualify. Most charitable organizations should be eligible, but I suggest double-checking. Also, reach out to your employer to see if they have a gift matching program to supercharge your impact. 

–Eli Colmenero
ROR-KC Advisory Board Vice Chair and MarksNelson Senior Insurance Tax Associate

Board Member Spotlight: Neesha Hitchcock

Reach Out and Read Kansas City is excited to share the many faces behind our organization who give their time and resources to investing in the lives of youth in our community.

It’s time to highlight our first Board Member and Chair, Neesha Hitchcock! She has been with ROR-KC since 2017 and is an active member who brings so much joy and energy to every single event. Take a moment to get to know Neesha above!

Stay tuned for our next Board Member Spotlight next month!

December Medical Minute

Below is a bright bookmark in her year from an interaction with one of her patients:

There are many different transitions happening currently, for schools, for our nation’s government and the world. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that there are joyous things also happening amidst what has been a very chaotic year. So, with that in mind, I’d like to share with you a moment of joy during a recent well-child visit.  

Heart Stethoscope - NWHN

Last week I met Keelyn, an 8-month-old baby who came with his father for his check-up. I handed Keelyn his ROR-KC board book. He immediately grabbed it and his father, without a prompt, started talking to him about the pictures. They were smiling and laughing, demonstrating the important serve and return communication necessary for normal language development. It was easy to tell that these two have been sharing the love of books together for a long time. Keelyn showed me that his motor, social and communication development was right on track as I observed his interaction with the book and with his father. The book also kept Keelyn’s hands occupied, making it easier for me to complete his physical examination.

These are the memories that are so special – both for the family, and for me as a healthcare provider. For these unforgettable moments in my day, I thank our faithful donors. You allow me to provide joy, education and love for the families in my care, as well as priceless moments for me. This keeps me coming to work every day with hope for a healthy future for the children and families I care for.  Thank you for all that you do to support ROR-KC!

And remember, keep safe, wear those masks, wash your hands, don’t touch your face, and review CDC guidelines for safe holiday gatherings by clicking here.

-Sallie Page-Goertz, MN, APRN, CPNP, IBCLC

November Medical Minute

This is normally the time of year when we think of cold nights and planning for family gatherings around holiday tables. Across our two states, numbers of COVID-19 cases are rising. This also comes at a time when flu season will be arriving in our region. 

Planning holiday get togethers during COVID-19 - School of Public Health

The question on everyone’s minds- how do we safely manage the holidays and this unique winter season ahead? This winter will not, or should not, be the same for most of us if we are following recommendations to reduce our risk of contracting COVID-SARS2. It means rethinking large gatherings and finding other ways to celebrate. The CDC provides lots of helpful information here to guide us in safely negotiating holidays.

Family Gatherings, Holidays and More: Additional Tips on Celebrating Missed  Milestones during Covid- | The University of Vermont Health Network

So as winter approaches, continue those FaceTime/Zoom/Google Group gatherings, find a great book to read and look at all of the local activities you can do with your family. Check out the many local parks and hiking trails for an outing. This site lists activities for kids and adults – just plug in your zip code!

Support your favorite restaurants with carry-out orders, your favorite small businesses with curbside pick-up, or short, mask-wearing in-store shopping. Shop your local bookstores to find that special book for the children in your lives. Click here to support independent bookstores.

Why the flu shot is so important in 2020 | Feeling Fit |

To keep extra safe get your flu vaccine if you haven’t yet, wear a face covering whenever you are with other people outside of your social bubble, practice social distancing, and wash your hands. Don’t touch your face!

To our loyal donors, we thank you for your continued support during these difficult corona-era times. Know that you are helping us make a difference in the lives of children every day!

-Sallie Page-Goertz, MN, APRN, CPNP, IBCLC

Welcome New Board Member Katie Jardieu!

When Katie Jardieu was growing up, books were a beloved anchor of stability and consistency, like an old familiar friend. “I moved around a lot as a kid and books allowed moments of quiet in the various places where we didn’t know anyone yet,” says Katie.

Today, she’s in an exciting chapter of her life. Katie and her husband, Chris, have an adopted son named Jimmy who is turning four-years-old this month. Jimmy is from China and hopes to meet his new adopted little brother soon. Right now, Katie and Chris are waiting for China’s border to open to finalize their second son’s adoption.

“Reading is a way for my husband and I to connect with our children early on, as we help them navigate a new language and new country. It has also helped us learn more about their culture and integrate aspects of it into our family,” says Katie, “Reading and books are so important to me as they have helped us discover new aspects of our son’s personality and create memories together as a family during our pre-COVID weekly library trips.”

By joining the Reach Out and Read Kansas City Advisory Board, Katie wants to help other children gain access to books as early as possible so that they too, can have the countless advantages of reading and learning at a young age. “What I am most looking forward to about being on the Advisory Board, is to help expand the mission of ROR-KC and get books into the hands of more kids and families who need them” says Katie, “I was specifically interested in ROR-KC because they don’t make families sign up for anything to get the books. They make the well-child visits less scary and more approachable.”

Katie is a City Planner for Raymore, Missouri with a background in cartography.

Welcome, Katie, and thank you for sharing your time and talents with us!

October Medical Minute

It is definitely fall. We have cooler nights, changing leaves and many are working hard to figure out remote learning in this 7th month of the COVID-19 pandemic.

TeachingBooks | Author & Book Resources to Support Reading Education

I want to write a bit about diversity, and more specifically, diversity in children’s books.  First, a definition from various sources-Diversity encompasses those differences that make us unique – race, color, ethnicity, language, nationality, sexual orientation, religion, gender, socio-economic status, age, physical and mental ability, cultural traditions and more. 

We're Different, We're the Same (Sesame Street) by Bobbi Kates

Raising children to be aware of differences is important for their understanding of the richness each person can bring to their lives. Sesame Street Workshop has a wonderful book We’re Different, We’re the Same that speaks to the uniqueness of people as well as how people are also the same in terms of needs, desires, hopes, feelings and more. The more we know about how we are alike and how we are different, the more we understand others and the world around us. 

Providing children with books and toys that feature a variety of people sends them a critical message about diversity, and acts as a stimulus for important conversations about how we are unique and how we are the same. 

Our ROR-KC book library is proudly filled with books that illustrate the diversity of people and traditions. We know that it is important for children to see characters that look like them! Please see the graphic below that describes the limited availability of titles that feature characters that are Black, Indigenous, Latinx and other peoples of color. 

Picture This: Diversity in Children’s Books 2018 Infographic – Sarah Park Dahlen, Ph.D.

Thank you and as always, wear your masks, wash your hands, and don’t touch your face, as you keep yourself and your dear ones safe in these Corona times. 

-Sallie Page-Goertz, MN, APRN, CPNP, IBCLC

Meet Cate and Kayla: 2020 Books On Tap Co-Chairs Q&A

Our 9th annual fall fundraiser Books On Tap Virtual Campaign is almost here, and this year looks a little different than in years past.

Books On Tap 2020 Co-Chairs Cate Stein and Kayla Boal have worked very hard to ensure that guests have the same experience safely at home as they would in years past. We want to recognize their hard work and dedication to this year’s virtual campaign, Party At Home Packages, sponsorships, silent auction items and more! This year’s Books On Tap is going to be awesome!

September Medical Minute

Well, dear readers, a month has flown by , and some kids are in school while others remain at home learning remotely. Those kindergartners who’ve been lucky enough to have been recipients of the Reach Out and Read program will be well prepared to begin their elementary school careers, whatever that beginning may be. 

Daily Dose - What to Know About Children Going Back to School ...

A recent article explored the effectiveness of various book giveaway programs, and found that the Reach Out and Read model was the most effective of all of the programs reviewed. 

Why? Because we involve TWO generations – the parents as well as the child. Parents receive advice and education from a trusted health care provider on how and why to share books with their children, along with the gift of a new, developmentally-appropriate book! The frequent visits that families have with their pediatric health care provider who demonstrates ways to share the new book is thought to contribute to the effectiveness of the Reach Out and Read program. 

Meet 4-year-old Jayleen. She was delighted to have her own books to take home!

The inequities that persist in our society – including throughout healthcare – are top of mind as we are bombarded with COVID-19 news. This inequality is also pervasive throughout education; children living in poverty have reduced access to language-rich environments and high-quality preschool.

The gift of a book and the advice that comes with it may seem like a small thing, yet participation in Reach Out and Read has been shown to truly make a difference for the children that we reach. ROR-KC staff are so grateful to our generous donors whose gifts continue to allow us to provide great books, along with information to the families that we serve. Please know that what you give makes a difference in children’s lives every day. 

Now, wash your hands, put on your masks, and don’t touch your faces as we navigate the new normal of these times. 

-Sallie Page-Goertz, MN, APRN, CPNP, IBCLC

Meet ROR-KC’s New Book Coordinator

Stefanie reading to her two sons.

We are excited to announce that Stefanie Estes has joined ROR-KC as our part-time Book Coordinator! She grew up outside Albuquerque and studied film at the University of New Mexico and holds a Masters’ degree in Library Science from Indiana University. For over a decade, Stefanie served patrons of all ages as a children’s librarian, teacher’s assistant, library manager, and adult book group facilitator in the Kansas City area before joining the ROR-KC team. In her spare time, she enjoys laughing with her husband over internet memes, reading to her three and five-year-old boys and taking walks as a family. She also loves recommending books to anyone she meets everywhere she goes.

Her favorite children’s books include Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina, Are You My Mother? By P.D. Eastman, Blue Hat, Green Hat by Sandra Boynton, Hug by Jez Alborough and Nibbles:The Book Monster by Emma Yarlett.

Welcome, Stefanie!

August Medical Minute

It seems like the world is mostly upside down in this new normal of Corona time. Everything we do is weighed against the risks of exposing ourselves or others that we love to COVID-19. 

Normally, this would be the month of heading to one’s favorite store for new school supplies and that special first-day-of-school outfit. Now, many families in the KC metro aren’t quite sure what school will look like.

What Will Back to School Look Like During COVID-19? - School ...

It appears that most of the major school districts are choosing to delay the start of school, and some are planning for remote learning at first. Is this wise? So hard to know. What I do know is that my patients are missing their friends, their parents are overwhelmed with trying to be teachers, workers and parents, and many are facing significant economic hardship. What I also know is that many children live in places where WiFi is NOT a given, and have parents who don’t have the skills to be their children’s teachers (other than making sure they are actually sitting in front of the tablet/computer/phone during the Zoom appointment time)! I have teen patients who have been put in charge of their younger siblings learning while parents are working – and you can guess how that sometimes goes! 


While we await final decisions on in-person learning, it’s time for children to get their vaccinations and check-ups, and of course, their Reach Out and Read gift of a new book (for those 5 years and under), or a gently used book (for those children older than 5), provided through generous donations of so many folks in the community! 

I encourage people to consult with their child’s primary care provider to assist with difficult decisions on return to school. Click here for information from The American Academy of Pediatrics regarding return to school and sports.


If we want our children back in school safely, the community has to do its job of caring for everyone by wearing a mask. The percentage of positive COVID tests needs to be well below 5% to think about safe return to school, and the greater metropolitan area is not there yet! As always, we are so thankful for our ROR-KC donors.

Wash your hands, wear your mask, and don’t touch your face. This helps protect others and also protects you! 

-Sallie Page-Goertz, MN, APRN, CPNP, IBCLC

Resources - Action on Salt

Information for parents about returning to school: 

AAP guidance for returning to sports: 

Safety check list for sports participation: 

July’s Medical Minute

Dear Reach Out and Read KC friends,

Jayleen is excited about her new books!

Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, has just passed as I write this as we move inexorably onward in this new normal of the COVID-19 era. My grands have dubbed this “corona time”.

What’s happening in pediatric and family medicine clinics? Traditionally, summer is the time for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten physicals and those are still happening! Four-year-olds are getting their ROR Kindergarten book bags along with their very important four-year-old booster immunizations. Children birth to five are coming in for their regular check-ups and immunizations and of course their gift of a book from their providers, thanks to the generous donations to ROR-KC!  

We are missing the many volunteers who have modeled reading aloud in our waiting rooms, and suspect it will be quite some time before they will be able to return-perhaps once there is a widely available COVID-19 vaccine. Work flows have changed so that no one is ever in the waiting room! For many offices, this has meant scheduling more evening and Saturday hours in order to avoid folks staying in waiting rooms. Gently-used books are staying back in our work areas, to be handed out by staff to older children, who come into our offices for any reason.  

Dr. Lisa Riojas, MD and her staff at Children’s Mercy West.

Offices have opened up their schedules. Many of us are using telehealth for certain type of follow up visits and in a limited way for urgent care concerns.

All staff are wearing masks and eye protection, and all who come for visits are wearing masks as well (if you are over two-years-old, you get a mask). We want to keep our patients, their families and all of our staff safe.

Why it is Important to Teach Your Kids to Wear a Face Mask | UKNow
Stay safe and healthy this summer!

To all of our ROR-KC supporters – we thank you. We wish a safe “corona time” summer -wear your masks in public, social distancing whenever possible, wash your hands, don’t touch your face as this will be the mantra for the foreseeable future.

-Sallie Page-Goertz, MN, APRN, CPNP, IBCLC

June’s Medical Minute

Dear Reach Out and Read KC friends,

This is my third Medical Minute in the Corona era. CORONA is a beautiful word; it means crown in Spanish. Yet, this Corona era has not exactly been beautiful. In the words of Lambrina Kless of National ROR, COVID came and shape-shifted our world. Adapting to this shape-shifted world has been a challenge in so many ways for nearly every human being on the planet – something that’s hard to wrap my head around.  Doctor’s offices mobilized technology for a deep dive into telehealth care delivery, Amazon can’t keep up with the explosion of on-line orders, and many of us struggle to figure out what exactly is safe and what might not be. We wear masks to run our errands, we worry about having enough sanitizer or disinfectant. This site here explains why and how to help children get used to wearing masks.

Our world will be forever changed, and hopefully in some good ways. The stark revealing of huge discrepancies in the lives of people related to housing, food security, health insurance, treatment in health facilities and more has been beyond eye-opening, and hopefully will lead to systemic changes so that ALL people have what they need to feel safe and secure. It seems each day we are learning more about this virus and how it affects people. Thankfully this illness is mild, and most people recover. Children tend to have mild disease, and in fact often have no symptoms at all, despite being infected. Recent reports of an inflammatory illness in children, which can be very severe, and very scary, are also very rare. Please see this resource for information for parents about this condition.

Children during this time are missing important day-to-day interaction with teachers, friends, and grandparents. Educators report they are less worried about the academic delays as the social-emotional delays that may occur due to school closures. Children may struggle to understand why their world has changed so dramatically.  Please remember, snuggling up with a kiddo to share a book is proven to reduce those stress hormones in both child and reader! Continuing to the extent possible routines of bedtimes, mealtimes and book sharing are helpful to children especially in times of stress.

Child advocates worry that more children may be experiencing abuse/neglect as the mandated reporters (teachers, health care providers) are not seeing children. Reports of child abuse / neglect are WAY down, which would not be expected when so many families are under tremendous stress.  If you or someone you know is feeling at the end of their rope, please remind them there is help!  The CHILDHELP National Child Abuse hotline is 1-800-422-4453. Through interpreters available in 170 different languages, the hotline offers crisis intervention, information, and referrals to thousands of emergency, social service, and support resources. All calls are confidential.

Spring is here, folks are hopefully going outside – walking, playing catch, kicking a soccer ball around, and figuring out driveway or porch gatherings with appropriate physical distancing.  Knowing how to decrease risks while most localities are “opening up” is important. Current guidance is that physical distancing remains very important. Wearing a mask where physical distancing is not possible is recommended for all persons over age 2. Dining outside at a restaurant is safer than dining inside. Limiting who you interact with to people who you know have been wearing their masks, and practicing physical distancing is helpful. Drive by birthday parties and graduation events are the 2020 way of celebrating for now.

The amount of unreliable, unscientific, even dangerous information that goes viral on the internet and certain media outlets is overwhelming! Even selected individuals in the federal government are touting totally unproven, and possibly dangerous remedies or actions. So, most importantly, ONLY PAY ATTENTION TO RELIABLE SOURCES OF INFORMATION: CDC, American Academy of Pediatrics, State/Local Health Departments and your primary care health care providers! Your doctor’s office or hospital is safer than ever due to all the extra efforts in cleaning/sanitizing taking place for COVID prevention. We’ll talk again in July, and see how summer is going, and what might be known for resumption of school. Until then, wash your hands, wear your masks, don’t touch your face!

-Sallie Page-Goertz, MN, APRN, CPNP, IBCLC

Janice’s New Chapter: Opening Book on Retirement After 18 Years

ROR-KC has provided more than 1.2 million books to Kansas City-area children and one person has touched nearly every one of them: our Book Coordinator, Janice Dobbs. Now, after 18 years of dedicated service, Janice is starting a new chapter by retiring from ROR-KC. “I have loved being a part of something that has touched the lives of so many children,” she says. “I will certainly miss the satisfaction that my job has given me.”

A special bookmark in Janice’s Book of Life on her time at ROR-KC has been watching little ones arrive for their doctor’s appointment and looking to their parents saying, ‘Do I get a book today?’

“How awesome is that? They are already connecting their doctor’s visits with the gift of a book,” Janice said.

Janice’s history with ROR-KC goes beyond her 18 years as an employee. Shortly after she and her family moved to Kansas City, one of her son’s friends’ Mom (Laura Gregory) asked her if she would be interested in serving on the KC Reads Community Council. As a former teacher and lover of books, this seemed like the perfect fit. Janice had been serving on the Council for several years when Dr. Jean Harty (then KC Reads Medical Director) approached her about taking a part-time job to oversee the book aspect of the program.

“I had the time, interest and was excited to move into a more ‘hand’s on’ relationship with the program. I find myself fondly remembering the many wonderful people with whom I’ve had the privilege to work. ” Janice said.

More than anything else, Janice says it’s the children who’ve touched her heart. “I am touched as I think about the hundreds of thousands of children who have received the gift of books that I had the privilege to choose. I have been lucky enough to get to deliver waiting room books to some of our clinics throughout the years. The children flock around me and can barely contain themselves as I unload the boxes of gently-used books. I often have lots of “helpers” as I put the books on the shelves! I am sure to give every one of them a book to take home, too.”

She says it’s not just the children who get excited about book deliveries. “I often hear stories of clinic staff getting really excited on new book delivery day. They lovingly go through the boxes of books, knowing that each one represents an opportunity for parents to get early literacy advice from a health-care provider, and for a child to get a brand-new, appropriate book to call their own.” 

Janice’s position has included annual trainings for medical providers at clinics, and she says she hears over and over that they wouldn’t want to do a well-child visit without a book. “Not only is the book helpful when doing a developmental assessment of the child, it can also relax the atmosphere in the exam room,” she says. “The child has something new to focus upon, and the parent then has the opportunity to ask questions and hear advice.” 

As the Book Coordinator, Janice also handled school book drives, and has spoken to many classes over the years.

“I often ask the students if they can tell me exactly how many books they have at their homes, she says. “Of course, there are always a few who think that they can – until I probe a little further and they realize that maybe they didn’t count ALL of their books – like the ones under their bed or in their car! I then tell them that many children DO know how many books they have, because that number is zero. Can you imagine a home without books? Do you have any idea how many books you own?” 

As Janice writes her next chapter, she is hopeful and excited for the future. 

“While COVID-19 has put a hold on some of my plans, I am looking forward to being able to travel more and spend time with my own children and grandchildren in my retirement, and to have the time to get involved with some new volunteer opportunities,” she says. “Until the time comes for traveling and volunteering, I will enjoy finding new places to walk, new books to read, and old sports to watch—can’t get enough of watching the Royals win the World Series, the Chiefs win the Super Bowl or KU win the NCAA National Championship!” 

Below are some closing words from Janice:

Janice holding her famous almond cake! Click here for the delicious recipe.

I will take with me many fond memories and lots of “Seuss-isms” to live by in the next phase of my life. I’d like to close with a quote from Seuss-isms! entitled Expand Your Horizons taken from I Can Read with My Eyes Shut.

The more that you read,
The more that you will know,
The more that you learn,
The more places you’ll go.

Thanks to the entire Reach Out and Read Kansas City community for giving me the opportunity to “go so many places” these past 18 years!

Please continue to take care of this program.

I know I will.

-Janice Dobbs

June 2020 Donor Spotlight: Something Good To Strive For

“Reading is so important—it’s a gateway to learning and education.”-Pamela Miller

As very generous ROR-KC contributors, Pamela Miller and Michael Cummings believe strongly in the work of ROR-KC and the impact it has for the children and families touched by the program.

“What makes the ROR-KC approach different and effective is that medical caregivers encourage parents to read aloud with their children and to have their children see them reading,” Pamela continued. “Just providing them books to read is an incredible gift! And the children get to enjoy a variety of books read by volunteers in clinic waiting rooms during well-child medical visits. As a volunteer myself, I’ve witnessed the joy and natural curiosity children have. We must, must, must encourage and advocate for this!” Pamela said.

Studies show the Reach Out and Read model has a significant effect on parental behavior and attitudes toward reading aloud. Children who participate in the ROR-KC program also demonstrate higher language scores. This impact has been documented in ethnically and economically diverse families throughout the nation.

Pamela says the bonding between parents and children who read together is the bedrock of a strong community, and ROR-KC’s work has positive effects well beyond distributing books in clinics.

“Children who are readers grow up as resilient, informed, independent individuals able to navigate the challenges of life—in fact, they embrace them and make a difference in the lives of others. Children who read grow up to see themselves as equal to others in terms of opportunity and as part of the greater world—not at its mercy. As business leaders have often stated, they can teach employees the required work skills, but they cannot teach critical thinking and effective communication,” she continued. “Not to mention the enjoyment and expansive life that reading, education and training provide on a personal level.”

As avid readers, Pamela and Michael want to ensure the magic, discovery and doors of opportunity opened by reading are available to every family and child in our community.

“Libraries, schools and bookstores can become sanctuaries for children with a challenging home life,” she said. “I was one of those kids. Reading was my safe place and assured me there was something good to keep striving for.” Pamela said.

Recently, the COVID-19 crisis has underscored the importance of the ROR-KC program.

“Children are not at school—so opportunities for reading may be diminished,” she explained. “If children don’t continue to read, their future education will suffer as will their opportunities in life—books are needed! ROR-KC can continue to be that vital link. Books can be provided at wherever children receive wellness and medical services—and ROR-KC can obtain volumes of books at great discounts— through your giving. A modest gift can truly have a transformational impact. Not to mention a family receiving books tells them that you are thinking about them, that you care, that they have value, and that we can get through this—together.” Pamela said.

ROR-KC makes literacy promotion a standard part of pediatric care so that children starting at birth through age five, grow up with access to books and engaged parents, to enter school ready to learn.  We can’t do that without your help and support. Please consider a gift today by clicking here. Thank you for your ongoing support.

New 2020 Tax Benefits

Dear Friend of ROR-KC:

I hope this letter finds you well. My name is Eli Colmenero, and I sit on the Board of Reach Out and Reach-Kansas City and our Books on Tap event committee. During the (typical) work hours, I am a tax associate at a local business advisory firm and wanted to reach out regarding recent changes to the charitable giving landscape.

The role of philanthropy in responding to the current pandemic is critical. Recognizing the public’s increased demand for the services of nonprofits, Congress included special tax rules for charitable giving in The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. In sum, the CARES Act grants unprecedented tax benefits to donors who can give in higher amounts while realizing substantial tax savings.

The CARES Act added an above-the-line deduction for non-itemizing individuals of up to $300 or $600 for joint filers. This new deduction is generally allowable for charitable contributions paid in cash directly to qualifying organizations, like Reach Out and Read Kansas City. The provision is in addition to the standard deduction and may reduce adjusted gross income (“AGI”) that could impact the applicable tax rate and help donors realize significant tax savings.
Donors who intend to itemize in 2020 have now received the ability to utilize charitable giving to eliminate their entire 2020 Federal income tax liability. The CARES Act increased the maximum charitable deduction from 60% of AGI to 100% of AGI for tax year 2020. Generally speaking, these provisions only apply to cash gifts made during 2020, which makes the remainder of 2020 an ideal time to make that gift-of-a-lifetime.
Additionally, the maximum charitable deduction from corporate donors increased from 10% to 25% of AGI for cash gifts made during 2020. Thus, the incentives for the corporate community to partner with Reach Out and Read KC and have an immediate impact on the lives of children in the Kansas City area have never been better.

If you have any questions, I encourage you to reach out to your tax advisor and inquire as to how you or your business may best maximize this opportunity to achieve your giving goals. As we begin to move past this crisis, please consider Reach Out and Read Kansas City for your 2020 charitable giving.
Wishing you the best,
Eli Colmenero

Medical Minute: May 2020

Our challenge as pediatric health professionals, Reach Out and Read supporters and parents, is how to continue caring for one another in ways we have never imagined!  Who knew that doctors and nurses could see lots of children and families for health visits using the magic of social media?  Who knew that there were so many different ways to have a virtual meeting, coffee/cocktail hour or birthday party?  Is the virtual what we hoped for?  Probably not!  However the alternative would be to see many, many more people become ill with this new virus – COVID-19. 

The common questions that I’m getting:

1.) Why is THIS virus so much more worrisome?
People can have the virus in their body, and not have symptoms, but, they can pass the virus to people who are within 6-9 feet of them! 

2.) Why do we wear a cloth mask when we can’t stay 6-9 feet away from folks who don’t live in our household?   
Your mask and your child’s mask protect others from YOU!   The mask on your friend or others in the store, or on the streets protects you from THEM.  This is another way to decrease the number of people who get sick.

3.) Why can’t we go see the grandparents who are 70 years old?  Because older people are at higher risk of getting severe illness, and you or your child could be infected, but not yet have symptoms!   If you must visit, wear your mask!

4.) How risky is COVID-19 for my child – why were schools closed?   Children can get this infection.  The good news is that it appears to be VERY rare for a child to become critically ill or die.  The bad news is that children can be infected (have the germ in their body) and have no symptoms, or very, very mild symptoms, and pass the illness to others – that’s why governors/mayors very wisely closed schools.

Summer is coming.  We don’t know yet when libraries will open back up!  However, this might be the rare time we recommend looking at e-book possibilities for children, which are available on-line to download for free from your local library.  The data remind us that e-books are best when read together with an older sibling or adult who can scaffold (or connect) the information in the book with information in real life. So, continue physical distancing, wear masks when places are crowded, follow advice ONLY of trusted sources: American Academy of Pediatrics, your local health department, and the CDC. There is a lot of information circulating on social media that is not true, in some instances unsafe, and could put you and those you love at risk. Be safe, keep your distance, wash your hands, don’t touch your face.

A fantastic article “The Anxious Child” by Kate Julian in The Atlantic, reminds us that shielding kids from scary things can actually eventually cause them to be more fearful and more anxious.  It’s OK to talk to our kids about COVID-19, explain in simple terms what it is, and then model what we can do to prevent it. 
Sallie Page-Goertz, MN, APRN, CPNP, IBCLC & ROR-KC Medical Director

Volunteer Appreciation: Sally Clark

“When a child comes through the door of the clinic and dashes over to see “the book lady” to get a new book, it is a thrilling feeling. When a patient is offered a book, and they announce they “don’t read” but can’t resist the perfect book when we find it, it feels fantastic.”

These are the words of Sally Clark, an 18-year volunteer with ROR-KC who started on February 1st, 2002. For Sally, ROR-KC isn’t just a “volunteer job”, it’s her true passion.

“It’s like Christmas every day with each child getting the gift of a book. Some of the patients I have seen for as many as 18 years, and I have learned to love and admire the patients and their families through the years.” said Sally.

Her connection with her patients and families can only be described as a unique and rare gem, similarly to each book she joyfully hands out to her patients and families. Sally averages about 50 hours a month volunteering by going in to Children’s Mercy Neonatal Follow-Up Clinics several days of the week for hours at a time.

“I love my time spent at Children’s Mercy Hospital. Giving out books is such fun. Reading to kids is a joy. Meeting and visiting with the people is a real privilege and my time spent in my volunteer “job” is a wonderful part of my life.” said Sally with a smile.

To view a Volunteer Highlight video of Sally’s work, click here.

Thank you for 18 years of volunteer service, Sally! We appreciate your years of enthusiasm and genuine dedication to assisting our mission.

Volunteer Appreciation Week

In honor of National Volunteer Appreciation Week, we want to take a moment and thank our OUTSTANDING volunteers. Your time and talents make a world of difference at Reach Out and Read KC. 

We also want you to know you are genuinely missed. We continue to wish safety and good health over each of you and your loved ones and look forward to the day when we will see your smiling faces again. 😊

YOU are the heart of Reach Out and Read KC, and we are SO thankful for you! Happy Volunteer Appreciation Week!

ROR-KC Virtual Storytime

We miss you! To support social distancing, join us for ROR-KC Virtual Storytime episodes that you can enjoy from your home featuring ROR-KC staff, volunteers and special guests! View the storytimes on all of our social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) every Thursday at 12:30 p.m.

Use the hashtag #ReadTogetherKC to share your own virtual storytimes and at-home reading pictures with us. We want to see you reading!

Medical Minute

We have seen dramatic changes in how we operate since COVID-19 came to Kansas City. At The University of Kansas Health System (TUKHS) and most other pediatric outpatient centers/offices, well-child visits for children who do not need vaccinations to keep them safe have been cancelled for now. At TUKHS, we have cancelled in-person visits for lots of follow-up concerns for adults as well as children. We have started doing Zoom visits -Telehealth- with families as a strategy to stay in touch and take care of urgent needs that don’t require a detailed physical exam-such as checking in with kids who’ have asthma, chronic abdominal pain, and ADHD medication checks.Our psychologists and licensed clinical social workers are “seeing” kids and families with virtual visits using Zoom or Doximity which are HIPPA compliant.

Why are visits and elective surgeries being cancelled? Why are stringent visiting policies in place?
To protect our patients and our health care providers from community spread of COVID-19.
To save protective equipment (masks, gloves, and gowns) to be available to protect our health professionals.
Clinics, hospitals, and doctors offices across our communities are doing everything they can to prepare for a possible surge in ill patients. The big unknown is what will this surge look like – will it be overwhelming, as we’re hearing in reports from Italy, New York City and New Orleans, or will it be more manageable as seen in South Korea. The key to a manageable surge is the public’s willingness to practice social (physical) distancing. Each of you reading this can help prevent a health care disaster for this community! If youth continue to congregate for “corona parties” and families congregate in public parks without the distancing, the surge may become unmanageable for the health care system.

What can you do to protect yourself and your children?
Exactly what the CDC (Center for Disease Control) advises:
Keep your social (physical) distance from others. This means NO play dates; this means playing in the park while keeping distance from other people and NOT using the playground equipment; and this means avoiding visits to grandparents over age 65 who are at higher risk of getting sick
Wash your hands; Soap actually works very, very, very well to kill the pesky virus! Sanitizer is NOT necessary.
Cover your cough/sneeze with a tissue and discard the tissue, then wash your hands again!
Keep your distance, wash your hands, and stay well!

Volunteer Appreciation Month

April is National Volunteer Appreciation Month! Please join ROR-KC for a virtual celebration via Zoom on Thursday, April 23rd at 2:00 p.m during Volunteer Appreciation Week. Hear from Reach Out and Read CEO Brian Gallagher as he expresses his appreciation of your selfless commitment and effort to our program.

We are amid an unprecedented public health crisis, yet we also have an extraordinary opportunity to come together virtually during this time to celebrate YOU! Our volunteers are the backbone of our organization.

Please click here to register for this virtual event!

ROR-KC COVID-19 Update and Resources

This is a trying time for our communities, our nation, and the world. We believe that the Reach Out and Read mission of family engagement and reading daily is as powerful and important as ever during these challenging times.  

As a healthcare-based program, we have the utmost respect and support for our medical providers who are working tirelessly to care for patients affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Our clinics and providers remain committed to supporting families with young children, continuing to provide books and encourage reading aloud at every checkup. Most ROR-KC partner clinics are continuing to see children 15 months or younger and 5-year-old children so they can continue to receive vaccinations.

We are pleased to share our curated list of resources for parents and families, which is now available on our website. The increased time that children and families will spend together over the next few weeks is a terrific opportunity to maximize the effect that attention and nurturing from a loving parent or caregiver has on healthy brain development.  

ROR-KC’s work remains critical during this time. Children and adults alike feel anxious and stressed. One of the best ways to support and engage children is to read books together. Reading together promotes bonding and builds strong emotional connections. When children are cuddled in the lap of a loving caregiver, enjoying a book together, they feel safe and secure, despite the turmoil in the outside world. Reading together also builds routines that can help children manage during this uneasy time. Sharing books regularly can provide a sense of routine that can help children manage during this uneasy time of school closures.

Check out this article by National Reach Out and Read Medical Director Perri Klass “Getting Through, Making Memories and Being the Grown-Ups”. It’s a great reminder that YOU are what your child needs. 

Reach Out and Read provides a simple reminder that spending time together with books can offer a safe harbor, even if just for a few moments.  

Be well! 

Race to Read 5K Cancellation

The health and safety of our community and event participants is our number one priority. Accordingly, The 4th Annual Race to Read 5K on April 25th has been cancelled due to current mandates around events and social gatherings in relation to COVID-19.

If you would still like to support this event as a virtual runner, please click here and mark yourself as a virtual runner. Your support touches our mission to support children and families through books, literacy advice, and story time.

We want to extend a special thank you to our Race to Read 5K sponsors  who are continuing to make extraordinary contributions towards children’s literacy: Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City, Lucas Commercial Flooring, The University of Kansas Health System Pediatric Department, Sallie Page-Goertz and Kenneth Goertz,Tanya Rodecker-Wendt and Samuel Wendt and Pat and Gail Sullivan.

2020 Hooked on Books Drive-over 20,000 books collected!

No photo description available.

We are excited to announce that our “Hooked on Books” effort collected OVER 20,000 BOOKS THIS YEAR!

18 elementary and middle schools participated in this area-wide book drive, and the winning school was Clear Creek Elementary! They collected over 16 books per student! WOW! GREAT JOB!

Clear Creek Elementary will receive $250 to go towards new books for their school library and one lucky class will have a pizza party.

Over half of the books collected from Hooked on Books will go to ROR-KC waiting rooms, where all children are able to take home a book each time they visit their health-care provider. The rest of the books are being distributed to agencies, schools and churches throughout the KC area who make sure the books go to deserving families.

Thank you to all of the participating schools and volunteers!

Read Across America 2020

Read Across America Week is a nationwide reading celebration beginning on March 2nd. Sponsored by the National Education Association (NEA), this annual reading holiday also marks the birthday of Theodore Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss.

This year, The Greater Kansas City Pi Beta Phi Alumnae Club members Cathy McCaddon and Sue Robinson read books to patients at Children’s Mercy West. In her third year of volunteering, Cathy says this is her favorite time of the year to make a difference.

“I like to volunteer for Read Across America Week because it’s such a fun event for the kids. There are so many things that you can find, support and celebrate for Dr. Seuss’ birthday. Every child that I have ever read to in a waiting room, I’ll ask ‘Do you know Dr. Seuss?’ and they say ‘YES!’ “said Cathy.

Over at Vibrant Health Central, the reading celebrations continued!

Fox 4’s Kathy Quinn read in Spanish to patients while also helping them with their English vocabulary. She credits early literacy as the perfect way to spend time with little ones, while giving them the tools for success.

“I love and enjoy kids. I home-schooled my kids for six years and we actually taught them Spanish so they would know how to read both languages. I’m a huge advocate for education and wanted to make sure that my kids knew the basics, so that key could open up anything else they wanted to do in life,” said Kathy.

ROR-KC intern Alex Hernandez also joined in on the fun and read aloud in Spanish to patients.

2020 For the Love of Books breakfast: A Success!

“At what age do young children start decoding the world around them?”

This was the thought-provoking question that ROR-KC Medical Director Sallie Page-Goertz recently asked 180 community members and leaders, including Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas and former Mayor Sly James. Sallie was the honorary host for our successful 2020 For the Love of Books Breakfast last month at a brand new location, Grand Street Cafe.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas welcoming the 2020 For the Love of Books breakfast attendees.

On a cold Thursday morning when you’d typically be driving into work thinking about the day ahead, we gave our attendees the opportunity to take a break from the norm and gather for breakfast, meaningful conversation and a glimpse into Reach Out and Read Kansas City’s world.

Even with the temperatures dropping, attendees warmed our hearts with their generous donations, and we’re grateful for the $53,560 the event has grossed so far.

2020 For the Love of Books breakfast honorary host Sallie Page-Goertz speaking to audience members.

Throughout the morning, inspiration came in many forms as Sallie challenged us to envision what it would feel like for a child on a day-to-day basis that didn’t have access to books or know how to read, how reading would feel like a difficult code. To put this theory to the test, ROR-KC staff made a code listed on the For the Love of Books breakfast programs for attendees to decipher. The code resulted in: Books Are Awesome!

In Kansas City’s lowest income neighborhoods, research estimates only one book is owned in the home per 300 children. ROR-KC  is doing all we can to bridge this gap so that all children in the Kansas City area have a book to call their own.

Sallie then explained an interesting Princeton University study conducted earlier this year, click here to read more. A team of Princeton researchers developed a new way to measure baby and adult brain activity during natural interaction. It’s not your imagination — you and your baby or grandbaby really are on the same wavelength!

Our guests were then treated to an insightful Q&A lead by Fox 4’s Shannon O’Brien towards our Keynote Speakers, local children’s book authors Aja James and Audrey Masoner. We learned more about them as individuals and their journey into how Mayor Sly and the Magic Bow Tie: A Kansas City Adventure” was born.

ROR-KC would like to extend a special thank you to our event sponsors: The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, CommunityAmerica Credit Union, Hallmark, Sallie Page-Goertz & Kenneth Goertz, Pamela Madaus & William McLean III and The Walsh Family Foundation. 

ROR-KC would also like to extend a special thank you to this year’s For the Love of Books breakfast committee: Jeni Cosgrove (Chair), Tanya Rodecker Wendt, Laura Blasi MD, Angie Endicott, Cynde Fry, Elizabeth Hobart, and Tiffany Wu. Thank you for all of your hard work and dedication to this event!

Thank you to Fox 4’s Shannon O’Brien for being our Emcee for the morning and to the staff at Grand Street Cafe.

We hope we will have your support for next year’s For the Love of Books breakfast!

Special Donation

Tyler, Kelli and Oakley Boxberger full of smiles as they donate.

One Kansas City family is doing their part to keep the magic of reading alive for local children through their late son, Jace. This year, to honor Jace on his birthday, Kelli and Tyler Boxberger donated 2,578 new and gently-used books. Just last year, the Boxbergers donated 1,438 books to grow Jace’s Birthday Book Drive.

“Jace loved books and we tried to instill a love of reading in him from the day he was born. Our hope is that his annual Birthday Book Drive continues to spread literacy and his budding passion for reading. By helping to keep his memory alive not just within our circle of friends and family, but in every child who receives one of his books,” Kelli said.

We at ROR-KC are so grateful to Tyler, Kelli and their beautiful baby girl, Oakley, who also shares a love of reading!

Meet Ellen and Alex

Ellen and Alex with their favorite children’s book!

Reach Out and Read Kansas City has two new staff members to welcome! Ellen Quinn has joined ROR-KC as our full-time Event and Communications Coordinator. A lifelong resident of Kansas City, Ellen earned her Bachelors of Science degree in Journalism & Mass Communications from The University of Kansas and has worked as a news anchor and reporter, event planner and marketing/communications coordinator. Ellen is excited to join the team and has a lot to share with her new coworkers. She loves reading, her cat Simba (animals in general), and traveling with her husband and family. Ellen also volunteers at The University of Kansas Cancer Center, KC Pet Project, and Gilda’s Club of Kansas City. When she was a little girl, the local library or book store was her favorite place to be. Some things never change!

Alex Hernandez is an intern with ROR-KC and a University of Missouri Kansas City senior studying Health Sciences. Although she is undecided on what exact path she wants to pursue in life, she is interested in applying her knowledge and skills while at ROR-KC. She hopes to gain more insight into her interests and learn more about how program management works. During her free time, she enjoys reading, playing ukulele or guitar, watching YouTube videos, and volunteering at KC Pet Project. After her internship, Alex plans on staying in Kansas City working closely with a nonprofit.

Welcome Ellen and Alex!

Exclusive Poems = a Very Happy Hour

Thanks to all who came out for our Fall Librarian’s Club Happy Hour event on Monday, November 4th! We had a great group at Our Daily Nada, a “boozy bookstore” in Kansas City’s River Market. Guests were treated to tasty appetizers and wine, as well as a beautiful poetry reading by local author Lauren Scharhag, who wrote two new poems specifically for our event (see below).

Local author Lauren Scharhag reads her poems to the Librarian’s Club, including two poems that she wrote specifically for our event.

Librarian’s Club members also enjoyed sharing their reading recommendations, which was especially helpful as we head into gift-giving season!

The Librarian’s Club is a group of dedicated literacy supporters who donate $100 or more at one time or are sustaining members who donate $10 or more monthly to Reach Out and Read Kansas City. They also receive a few perks, such as twice-annual happy hour events like this one, free extra raffle tickets at our annual Books On Tap fundraiser and entry into four quarterly prize drawings. Interested in membership? Click here.

Librarian’s Club members enjoying the poetry reading

The Reach Out and Read Kansas City Marketing Committee, which is composed of Board Members, planned the fantastic event. Thank you!

Lauren was kind enough to share with us the two poems that she wrote exclusively for our Happy Hour event, and we are thrilled to share them with you!

The Page

By Lauren Scharhag

When I was fourteen, I huffed books.
I sat in the sorting room of the library,
loading up carts, and when no one was looking,
I buried my nose in their bindings.
Not just because I loved the smell of books
but because I wanted to know
where those books had been.
I smelled cigarettes and cigar smoke on them,
I smelled cologne.
I smelled dogs and woodshops, hot glue,
schoolrooms, paint, potting soil,
and, in the case of the old Chilton’s manuals,
garages and motor oil.
I smelled spices on the cookbooks and
sweat on the self-help.
I found crumbs in the hinges,
fingerprinted pages, smudges of chocolate,
and far too often, bodily fluids
(which we will not dwell on).
I noted the dog-eared pages,
read the musings scrawled in margins,
triaged the ripped and torn,
tossed heaps of scrap paper
that had served as bookmarks,
shredded old bank statements,
rescued a love letter or two,
tracked down the owner of
an uncashed paycheck
unwisely stowed in the chapters
of a Sue Grafton.
The old checkout system
was already gone,
so I could no longer see
who had read these books before me;
I could only sniff at them,
attempting to track their journey
the way Sherlock Holmes,
with his olfactory genius,
charted London.
The return dates stopped at 1988,
the volumes in my hands
people already thought of
too much as artifacts,
but not the kind I mean—
how I wanted to tell them
what these pages reveal,
how they are the guide and the journey,
the treasure and the map,
the testimony, the evidence, and the scene.
I want them to read what is left in the wake
of this borrowing and returning:
books made of pulp and gray matter,
humans made of dust and dreams.

Suburban Library

By Lauren Scharhag

No stone lions,
no columns or mezzanines,
just cinderblock and indestructible carpet,
the place we retreated to
on long, pre-internet afternoons.
The stacks were our ideal habitat.
We went together with books
the way some girls go with horses
or tomboys go with softball.
We won every reading contest,
earned every slice of BOOK IT! pizza,
overidentified with Belle—
not because the local jock was into us, obviously,
but because we talked to clocks,
imploring them to hurry us into adulthood.
Here was the one place we could go
where our curiosity was not met
with strange looks.
Boys, assigned as partners in class,
met us in the study areas.
They didn’t know or pretended not to know
how to use the Microfiche or the card catalog
and sat with their feet up while we did all the work.
It was my first after-school job,
and other teenagers, never there voluntarily,
would follow me around, asking,
“So, do you, like, get paid to work here?”
Because they could, only too easily,
envision me wrangling books for free.
I bet if you go there now,
you can still find the old bookend
where I scratched my name on the bottom,
my paperback stash in the corner
where I used to hole up
to read during my shifts.
Girls like me read books the way
pilots hit the eject button,
the way the buried alive
claw at the walls of their coffins,
the way young birds leap
from their nests.
We inhabit libraries even as they
inhabit us.

Thank you, Lauren, for the beautiful poems and for sharing your talents with our Librarian’s Club!

Welcome New Board Member Abdul Yahaya!

When AbdulRasak Yahaya was young, his father read to him from his UMKC civil engineering books. “Lucky for me, my mom read me more age-appropriate bedtime stories,” says Abdul, “but this balance of reading is what allowed me to eliminate the achievement/opportunity gap in my own life and become a successful entrepreneur.”  

Now, Abdul wants to help other kids do the same, through the two Open Minds Child Development Center locations that he and his wife Alicia, started, and by joining the Reach Out and Read Kansas City Board. “My passion and business align directly with ROR-KC’s mission.” He says he had a true “ah-ha” moment when his three daughters (aged nine, six and three) received books at their well child visits (likely from ROR-KC). “My daughters looked forward to their pediatric visits because of the memories we created with the books received.” He says he was thrilled to be asked to join the board. “I was celebrating on the inside and excited to use my skills as a transformational leader to invigorate the KC Metro to “Reach Out and Read!”

“I am ready to serve!”

(Abdul with his wife Alicia and three daughters, Avery, Aliyah and Aubree)

Abdul’s parents were both immigrants; his mother from  the Caribbean island of Curacao, his father from Nigeria, where Abdul was born. Abdul grew up in Kansas City and is a proud graduate of Rockhurst High School and Kansas State University. He worked as a civil engineer for the Missouri Department of Transportation and other public agencies for a decade before launching Open Minds in 2016. 

Abdul hopes to learn as much as he gives while serving on the board, as he intends to start a non-profit focused on early childhood education with his wife in the future. “My Pastor always uses the analogy of an open hand when talking about giving and receiving. When your hand is open it is taken from as well as it is able to receive. If you only focus on what’s being taken and close your hand you will never be able to receive. I extend my open hand to ROR-KC and am ready to serve.” 

Abdul joined the board in July, along with Ben Gebhards, whom we’ll introduce you to next month. Welcome, Abdul, and thank you for sharing your time and talents with us!

Janice’s Late Summer Bookshelf: Beautiful and Time For Bed

Most months, we post a book recommendation from our Book Coordinator, Janice Dobbs. She’s spent 17 years curating the collection of developmentally-appropriate books that Reach Out and Read Kansas City provides to our partner medical clinics to hand out at well child visits. She knows books!


This month, we’re posting a couple books because sometimes there are just too many good ones from which to choose! Enjoy!


beautiful book cropped for newsletter


Written by Stacy McAnulty
Illustrated by Joann Lew-Vriethoff
Published by Scholastic
Age Range: 3-6 years old


This is a new book to our Reach Out and Read library, and I am very excited to be able to offer it to our families! Girls of many ethnicities are shown throughout this book engaging in activities often thought of as “only for boys.” Uniqueness is celebrated as girls are shown pursuing talents, facing challenges, showing compassion and having fun. With vivid illustrations, this book explores the endless potential that girls have as it encourages them to discover new things and to use their imaginations. Young children (ages 3-6) and those sharing the book with them will love the message that “girls are smart and strong!”


time for bed book picture

Time for Bed

Written and Illustrated by Petr Horacek
Published by Candlewick Press
Age Range : birth – 3 years old

You can never have too many books that help your little ones calm down at the end of the day, and this one is bound to be a favorite! The board book format, simple text and bright colors of this book make it suitable for even the youngest children. It helps to reinforce bedtime routines — I love that reading a story is included! Children will enjoy turning the sturdy graduated pages that eventually reveal a little boy snug in his bed ready to go to sleep. Petr Horacek has written a variety of board books that are sure to please children (and their parents!).

— Janice Dobbs

Janice Dobbs has been the Book Coordinator for Reach Out and Read Kansas City for over 17 years. She’s responsible for purchasing, organizing, and managing the delivery of thousands of books annually to our partner clinics. 

Books On Tap: Almost Here! Meet Your Co-Chairs

Our 8th annual Books On Tap  is almost here, and this year promises to be exciting and delicious with new features and local favorites. Grab a ticket and join us for Kansas City’s most unique happy hour, September 18th at the River Market Event Place from 5-8 p.m.


food sponsors bot

Thanks to generous local businesses, we’ve got delectable eats lined up, including sushi from Blue Sushi Sake Grill, sandwiches from Schlotzsky’s Deli, street corn from Mission Taco Joint, desserts from Betty Rae’s Ice CreamMcLain’s Bakery and more.


You won’t be thirsty, either. There will be mixed drinks featuring Rieger whiskey and vodka, wine and a huge variety of beer from local brewers, including Big RipBoulevardCasual AnimalDouble ShiftStockyards and more.


As always, we’ll have a raffle and silent auction, featuring one-of-a-kind prizes, such as wine tastings, a farm and food tour, bagels for a year, a brewery tasting for 10 and tickets to local attractions. New this year, Books On Tap will also feature a caricature artist sponsored by Ascend Learning and a wine pull sponsored by the ROR-KC Board.





A big thank you to our brewer level sponsors: CommunityAmerica Credit Union,  Lucas Commercial Flooring and Mark Van Blaricum!

Tickets are limited, so get yours now (click here)!

BOT graphic for newsletter

Books On Tap wouldn’t happen without our fantastic, dedicated committee. Heading up the group this year are co-chairs Matt Araiza (this is his fourth year!) and Kristen Oliver. We asked them to weigh in on the this year’s event.


Q: Matt, this is your fourth year heading up the Books On Tap committee. Why do you keep coming back?


Matt: “Reach Out and Read is just such a great organization. It helps the community, right here in Kansas City, get children ready for Kindergarten, and that starts with providing them from the get-go with books. Books On Tap is a perfect way to make that happen”


Q: Kristen, why did you want to get involved with Books On Tap and ROR-KC?


Kristen: “After hearing about the mission of the fundraiser, I was so excited to see what my past experience could do to benefit this amazing organization. As the mother of a six-year-old who loves to read, I understand the importance of children being introduced to books at an early age, and I’ve seen how it helps them to succeed in school.”


Q: Matt, what do you love about Books On Tap?


Matt: “Books On Tap is a super fun networking event with local food and adult beverages from KC favorites and lots of raffle and auction prizes. It’s a laid back time where you can grab some friends or co-workers or meet some new people. It’s so special because it is completely 100% made possible by partners in the community – people that support this organization and believe in it and see what’s happening.”


Q: Kristen, what are you most excited about for Books On Tap this year?


Kristen: “Making this the best year yet! Each year the fundraiser has out-performed the previous one, and I’m looking forward to doing that again!”


Thank you both for your hard work and dedication. Books On Tap 2019 is going to be awesome!