Promoting Oral Health Literacy in Our Own Backyard
DentaQuest employees join NEA Read Across America Day to help build a nation of diverse readers
Nick woke up on March 2, 2017 with a feeling of excitement and anticipation. He often experienced the same feeling right before a big meeting with an important DentaQuest client or a public presentation on Medicaid dental programs. But today was different. Nick was headed into unfamiliar territory – his step-daughter Lily’s second grade classroom at Cascade View Elementary.
“It’s a lot of pressure to stand in front of 22 eight-year-old kids and make sure you don’t embarrass the one that is yours!”
That was over a year ago and today, Nick is once again going back into the classroom to share two of his passions – reading and oral health – as part of Read Across America, a national reading motivation and awareness program by the National Education Association to help every child in every community celebrate reading. Now in its 21st year, Read Across America brings together teachers, celebrities, community leaders, policy makers, and parents in their own communities to help build a “nation of diverse readers.”
Supporting Read Across America and encouraging employees to participate is a no-brainer for DentaQuest.
“Too many people across the country don’t have the necessary keys to unlock good oral health care,” said Mary Ann Kozlowski, manager of corporate giving and partnerships at DentaQuest. “Literacy and oral health literacy – understanding what dental disease is and how it is prevented – is a major key and important factor in our ability to stay healthy.”
Dental disease is the most common chronic childhood disease – and yet, it is nearly completely preventable. Introducing children to practical information, fun facts, and stories about their mouths, teeth, and gums through books is a strong step in building health literacy skills. These skills are critical to a person’s ability to find health information and services, communicate ailments and needs/preferences, and engage in participatory decision-making. In fact, nine out of 10 adults struggle to understand and use health information and that contributes to poor health outcomes, higher rates of hospital utilization, less frequent use of preventive services, and overall higher health care costs.
For Nick and his colleagues, Read Across America offers a unique opportunity to support oral health literacy in their own communities. DentaQuest provides its employees with fun and engaging books about how to take care of our mouths and bodies and why oral health is so important for our total health. Employees take time out of their work day to read to a classroom of their choice in their local area. They donate the books they read to the classroom so future generations of students can benefit and learn about oral health prevention.
"Every day I come to work and help empower people to get good oral health care,” Nick said. “I love that DentaQuest supports me participating in Read Across America because it gives me the opportunity to do the same thing in my own community.”
Today, DentaQuest employees are visiting schools in Boston and Lakeville, Mass.; Greenfield, Ind.; Locust Hill, Va.; Columbia, S.C.; Milwaukee; Snoqualmie, Wa.; Austin; and Doral, Fla. Each volunteer will read and donate one of these oral health-themed books:
- Throw Your Tooth on the Roof by Selby B. Beeler
- The Tooth Book, by Edward Miller
- Open Wide by Laurie Keller
- You Wouldn’t Want to Live Without Dentists by Fiona MacDonald
- You Think it is Easy Being the Tooth Fairy by Sheri Bell-Rehwoldt
Sharing a love of reading with young children is a great privilege and responsibility of being an adult. But being read to is also crucial for children’s development and can impact future learning ability. Young children who are read to on a regular basis are more likely to recognize all the letters of the alphabet, count to 20 or higher, write their own names, and read themselves when compared to children who were not read to frequently. In fact, children who are read to at home have a higher success rate in school and children who read frequently ultimately develop stronger reading skills.
Don’t just take Nick’s word for it though! To learn more about Read Across America and get information about hosting your own reading event, visit www.nea.org/grants/plan-a-reading-event.htm.