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The Public Library and Medical School: Teaming Up to Support Family Literacy

Jacksonville Public Library

Innovation Summary

All first-year pediatric residents at the University of Florida College of Medicine-Jacksonville spend a half day at Jacksonville Public Libraries as part of their Community Rotation. Residents understand the important role the public library plays in promoting early childhood literacy, and learn about resources to promote a healthy family lifestyle.



Innovation Leader: Susan Mankowski, Early Childhood Specialist, susanm@coj.net

Problem Statement

University of Florida College of Medicine-Jacksonville has created a Community Rotation to introduce community resources to all pediatric residents in the Jacksonville, Florida area. Their aim is to raise residents’ awareness of quality care that not only treats the child, but educates the caregiver on options that could improve the entire health of the family. Low literacy levels have been directly linked to addiction, poor health outcomes, and incarceration; all of which impact the health of the child and caregiver. The college’s challenge was to find the most effective way to disseminate this information.

Innovation

All first-year pediatric residents at the University of Florida College of Medicine-Jacksonville spend a half day at the Jacksonville Public Library (JPL) as part of their Community Rotation. In addition to helping residents understand the important role the public library plays in promoting early childhood literacy, the experience is invaluable in showing them the vital resources the libraries provide to promote healthy lifestyles for children and families. Services such as free computer access and classes, tutoring, help with homework and assistance with filing government documents enhance life skills and foster responsibility in families, no matter their economic or social status.

Individual residents, or groups of two, are scheduled for a one-time visit to JPL. The pediatric residents receive a tour of the teen and children’s departments, observe an early childhood program, talk with library staff about their experiences promoting literacy for all ages, and learn about unique programs provided by JPL such as the Center for Adult Learning, the “Ride to Read” youth bus pass program, preschool and public school outreach programs, and community partnerships that also promote literacy and learning. This collaboration specifically identified pediatricians, based on research from “Reach Out and Read,” which states that caregivers are more likely to read with their children if this activity is prescribed by a doctor, thus promoting greater literacy outcomes for both the parent and the child.

Progress

This collaboration began in 2009 with the tour of the facilities and an information session regarding free resources available through the JPL system. While the tours and discussions still occur, the UF College of Medicine and JPL partnership has flourished. Pediatric residents have sent letters to State of Florida representatives and senators advocating for continued funding of public libraries from a medical perspective, and they have teamed up with JPL’s teen parent program to educate pregnant and young mothers about the importance of reading to educate and bond with their child. JPL has also worked with the UF College of Medicine coordinator to have a featured article in a local medical magazine highlighting the various free resources found at the public library. The magazine is distributed to all medical staff in Northeast Florida, impacting surrounding library systems and medical communities. JPL also created age-specific book recommendations for children from birth to age five featuring books from the JPL catalog. This is in support of the “Reach Out and Read” program and will be distributed to caregivers along with a children’s book during well-baby visits.