Improving children's health, safety and literacy by connecting classrooms and families

What if children were excited about taking what they learn, about health and safety in the classroom, home to parents and siblings?

Photo of Marlene Resnick Simons
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Founding Story: Share a story about a key experience or spark that helps the network understand why this project got started or a story about how you became inspired about the potential for this project to succeed.

There was a 4-year old child in a preschool program who was still recovering from a tracheotomy due to injuries suffered in a car accident where her baby sister was thrown from the car and killed. I witnessed her mother put her in the back seat of the car with no car seat or seat belt. As a result, I wrote a series of books for children providing them with critical information so that they can take steps to be safer and healthier re: seatbelts, healthy eating, resolving conflicts, etc.

Which categories describe you? (the answer will not be public)

  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French, Caucasian)


Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [State]

  • Florida

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [City]


Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [State]

  • Florida

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [City]

Sarasota and Manatee Counties

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Three needs: 1. Creating better connections between parents and teachers, home and school, 2. Providing immediately usable information directly to children, which they share with their families, 3. Getting children excited about learning to read. We know that outcomes in health and education are intricately connected to poverty. Let's give our youngest and most vulnerable children tools that have proven effective for these three listed goals

Children see themselves as a part of their families and their communities. When children are able to contribute to their families by helping them to be safer and healthier, children feel empowered and capable. This is truly what provides children with a strong base upon which their sense of self and purpose are based.

Competence in the real world is the most powerful motivator of learning for children-just watch the joy and excitement as a child learns to walk. They are excited about learning to read, when that medium provides real value to them and their families.

Belonging is first. Feeling a sense of purpose comes from experiencing yourself as a valuable, contributing member of your family, classroom and community. We need to give children an opportunity to be capable, contributing members of our community.

I am constantly amazed by the empathy, insight and caring that children show to others, when their thoughts, feelings and ideas are listened to and acknowledged.

Let's give children the information and tools that they need to be safe, healthy and contributing members of our society, so that  they are better prepared for the world in which they live and have, not only the desire, but the tools and knowledge to make that world a better place.

Is your model focused on any of the following traditionally underserved communities?

  • Communities of color
  • Low-income communities
  • Other

Does your model work within any of the following sectors?

  • Education

Year Founded


Project Stage

  • Scaling (the solution has passed the previous stages, and the next step will be growing its impact on a regional or global scale)

Example: Walk the network through a specific example of what happens when a person or group engages with your solution.

Children are powered by the desire to learn, which is powered by the desire to become competent and capable in the world in which they find themselves. Given information that improves their health and safety and the health and safety of their families, in the ways that they learn best, such as stories, rhyme, images and repetitions, they become excited and empowered teachers of their family and friends. Helping their families to be safer and healthier is a powerful motivator for young children. This is how children understand their own value. It is powerful in motivating them to become better readers, as they see and feel the value they bring to their families, particularly when English is their second language.

Impact: What was the impact of your work last year? Please also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

The pilot was performed in 7 first grade classrooms three years ago. It has taken a full two years to get the school systems of two counties to agree to implement this program with all first grade students. We are poised to do this in the 2016 -2017 school year, as soon as funding is available. Children see themselves as part of their families and introducing these short, colorful, rhyming books in the classroom gets children excited about reading and sharing what they can read with their families. We have 7,200 first grade students in Sarasota and Manatee Counties poised to implement this program and track outcomes. We have quantitative and qualitative outcomes for the use of seatbelts as well as substantial feedback from teachers about the importance of healthy eating and exercise that resulted from these rhyming books being introduced in first grade classrooms, then taken home.

Organization Type

  • for-profit

Annual Budget

  • $50k - $100k

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is your solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Because these small books can be produced very inexpensively, in large quantities and because they have measurable outcomes, we would like to see health insurance companies, auto insurers, food companies & others provide these books through sponsorships to classrooms in low-income communities, on a national basis. They may be sold through grocery chains for a low price. Reading initiatives would benefit from the classroom/home connection

Unique Value Proposition: How else is this problem being addressed? Are there other organizations working in the same field, and how does your project differ from these other approaches?

This program is unique in that is provides the tools for children to teach their parents and siblings about health and safety issues, while the students get excited about becoming better readers. There are programs that address obesity prevention, car safety, bullying, but few do this in the ways that are motivating for children to share what they learn, while getting them excited about becoming better readers. This series of books, introduced and explored in the classroom, then taken home to read to family members empowers children in ways that connect home and school, parents and teachers.

Reflect on the Field and its Future: Stepping outside of your project, what do you see as the most important or promising shifts that can advance children’s wellbeing?

We have created a huge educational system that is based upon what we want as a final product: typically a high school graduate who is competent in English and math. What we have failed to do is to design our public education system on the ages and stages of development that children and teens grow through. As a result, we have missed engaging a huge population of children, so that nearly one third of our children are not competent readers, eventually dropping out. Children learn in the context of relationships and in the context of emotion. Being of use is central to self worth for children

Source: How did you hear about the Children’s Wellbeing Challenge? (the answer will not be public)


Attachments (1)

two_books_flyer 2015_new.doc

These two books were piloted in 7 first grade classrooms in a school with 90% of children eligible for free or reduced priced meals and more than 50% who were English language learners. Seat belt use went from 79% of children using seat belts to 100% and parents use of seatbelts went from 43% to 75%. Sarasota and Manatee County School administrators have agreed to introduce these books to all first grade students in classrooms and for children to take home and read to their families.


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Photo of Jessie Mandle

Agree with many of these comments! Very interesting project and impressive outcomes with regard to to seat belt use among children and parents!!

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