Living Sustainably: Local campaign asks, “If you don’t need it yourself, #ShareTheStimulus”

By Patrick Cisler, Lakeshore Nonprofit Alliance
Stimulus checks from the federal government started to arrive in the bank accounts or mailboxes of Ottawa County residents over the past week. These funds are vital for those who are currently unemployed or underemployed, struggling with food security, or facing unexpected financial challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The majority of American households will need their stimulus funds to cover basic expenses over the next couple of months. While we know the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t yet been revealed, we’ve already seen initial implications for our economy. The nonprofit sector has seen and felt the impact, too, with requests for services like food assistance rapidly increasing.
What about those households who are in a stable financial position, but receive a stimulus check which they may not need? To those people, we humbly ask you to consider sharing the stimulus.
A coalition of nonprofit and government leaders here in Ottawa County believe that small, intentional acts of investment in our local community can help us all emerge stronger from the other side of this. That’s why we’ve created the #ShareTheStimulus campaign.
Sharing the stimulus can take any number of forms. For some, it’s ordering carry-out from your favorite local restaurants and leaving generous tips for the servers. You can purchase goods or gift cards online from a small business. Perhaps you’ve noticed people in your circle of influence who are struggling and want to give directly to them.
Another option is to make a financial gift directly to a nonprofit of your choice, or a contribution to the Emergency Human Needs Funds set-up by The Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area, The Grand Haven Community Foundation, and Greater Ottawa County United Way. Donations to the Emergency Human Needs Funds are distributed in real-time to support the incredible agencies who are keeping people fed, housed, and healthy during this pandemic.
To date, over $534,000 has been distributed from the Emergency Human Needs Fund. Generous contributions from our community, along with seed money from the three founding agencies, made this impact possible. Grants are helping Community Action House pack food boxes that support two people for a week. They are helping Mosaic Counseling continue to offer mental health services to their clients by adapting to remote sessions. They are helping Children’s Advocacy Center remain available to children and their families affected by abuse. A full list of agencies receiving grants is available at
Sharing the stimulus, whether you choose to order food, buy a gift card, help a neighbor, or support the mission of a nonprofit, ensures our community can bounce back from these challenging times. The need is great, and the time is now. Please join us if you can and #ShareTheStimulus.

 Patrick Cisler is executive director of the Lakeshore Nonprofit Alliance, an organization which works to strengthen the ability of more than 150 member nonprofit organizations to successfully accomplish their missions by working together.

Programs like food distribution at The Bridge in Zeeland can benefit from #SharingtheStimulus by those who have enough resources are better off.
Sustaining our business and nonprofit communities through small, intentional acts of investment can help us emerge stronger from the pandemic.
“Share the Stimulus” asks that people who have enough resources to consider the needs of businesses, nonprofits or individuals that are hard hit by the shutdown.

Earth Day Bingo!

In celebration of the 50th Annual Earth Day (April 22), Michigan universities and colleges are excited to collaborate to present Earth Week Bingo as a call to action.  Please join us in completing various Earth-themed activities (this week and every other day) to honor our beautiful community and take care of our Earth.  While still heeding social distancing guidelines, choose activities and post photos of the activities that you complete all week! Try to complete a full line of the bingo board, or even fill out the whole thing.  Every time you post a photo, show your collegiate spirit and tag your school (or alma mater!), use their hashtag, and #miearthday!

Tag us at-

Twitter: HC_Green Instagram: HollandHopeSustainability Facebook: Hope Advocates for Sustainability

Earth Day 2020 Bingo pdf

Living Sustainably: Earth Day turns 50!! April 22

By Dr. Steven Bouma-Prediger, Religion Department, Hope College
April 22, 1970. I remember it well. The very first Earth Day. It was a special day in my junior high school. We watched some of the national events – in Washington D.C. and New York City – on a television. We went outside and planted some flowers. We discussed some of the local environmental issues of that day – water pollution, air pollution, species extinction.
The brainchild of Wisconsin senator Gaylord Nelson, Earth Day was designed to promote care for the environment and place such care permanently on the national political agenda. But neither Nelson nor any of the other organizers knew how influential an event Earth Day would turn out to be.

More than 20 million people participated – nearly one in 10 Americans at that time. Imagine a gathering today of 10 percent of our present population – 33 million Americans. That is over three times the population of the entire state of Michigan.
Fifty years later that very first Earth Day ranks as not only one of the largest gatherings in American history, but also one of the most influential. Many mark that first Earth Day as the real beginning of the environmental movement.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was founded on Oct. 3, 1970. Congress passed the Clean Air Act with only one dissenting vote and it was signed into law by President Richard Nixon on Dec. 31, 1970. The Clean Water Act was signed into law in 1972. The Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973. The Toxic Substances Control Act in 1976. The list goes on.
In short, that first Earth Day fundamentally altered for the better the political, economic, and cultural (not to mention the physical or ecological) landscape of our country.
So, what about Earth Day 2020? What will we do on this Earth Day to make the world a better place? What will we do in the weeks and months and years ahead that will cause those on Earth Day 2070 to say that our home planet is more habitable and hospitable because of what earthkeepers did in 2020?
(For more on this, see the Earth Day 50th anniversary special issue of National Geographic, presenting two contrasting possible futures: “How We Lost the Planet/How We Saved the World).

We live in a time when, in the face of large and seemingly intractable ecological problems, many say there is nothing one person can do to make a difference. We feel helpless. But we must resist the urge to think we are helpless. Just like those on Earth Day 1970, we must be people of hope who imagine and believe possible a good future of earthly flourishing, and then do what is needed to make it real.
Robin Wall Kimmerer, a college professor and writer, tells the story of one of her students who responded to her apology that the environmental activism of her (baby boomer) generation should have solved more of the problems we currently face. Her student replied: “When everything hangs in the balance, it matters where I stand. How wonderful to live in a time when everything that I do matters.”
Everything that we do matters. So, let’s celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day by doing what we can to make our home planet more livable for those (human and non-human) around us.
 A college professor for 30 years, Dr. Steven Bouma-Prediger loves nothing better than teaching students outside.

This Week’s Sustainability Framework Theme
Environmental Awareness/Action: Environmental education and integrating environmental practices into our planning will change negative outcomes of the past and improve our future.

Living Sustainably is a collection of community voices sharing updates about local sustainability initiatives. It is presented by the Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute, a joint project of Hope College, the City of Holland and Holland Board of Public Works. Go to for more information.

The beauty of Earth, celebrated on Earth Day, is seen just above the horizon of the moon in this image from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.
Work begun in the wake of Earth Day 50 years ago continues with cleanups that have made Lake Macatawa an attractive recreational and financial resource.

2020 Hope College Student Sustainability Research Projects

In Holland, we believe that in order to become a vibrant, world-class community we must look at all aspects of our community.  This includes the “Triple Bottom Line”  and the economic, social, and environmental impacts we all have. Our City of Holland Sustainability Committee has created a seven-pillar framework with “lenses” to help us evaluate and make more sustainable choices. We have used this framework model as a way to identify the 2020 Hope College Sustainability Research Projects.

The Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute would like to formally recognize the following projects that presented during the 2020 Celebration of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity (CURCA) on Friday, April 17.  

PDF Document:  2020 Sustainability Research Projects

Framework Categories:








For more information about the Framework visit:

For more information about the Annual Celebration visit:

The students and their projects represented all of the college’s academic divisions — the arts, humanities, social sciences, and natural and applied science.

The research and performance celebration, first presented in 2001, is designed to spotlight the quality and importance of student-faculty collaborative research at Hope. Undergraduate research is a hallmark experience for many Hope students and has been a teaching model used at the college for more than seven decades. Mentored collaborative research happens year-round, with approximately 300 students conducting faculty-supervised independent research during the academic year and 200 doing research over the summer, making Hope’s summer research program among the largest in the nation at a liberal arts college. Since faculty are active in scholarship year-round, many more students engage in research during the academic year.

Research has a long and storied history at Hope College. More than 100 years ago, biologist Dr. Samuel O. Mast designed research laboratory space for the college’s Van Raalte Hall, which opened in 1903. The late Dr. Gerrit Van Zyl, who taught chemistry at the college from 1923 to 1964, is widely recognized for developing research-based learning at Hope in its modern sense.

Living Sustainably: Traffic safety awareness needed by all

By Kerry Irons, Pedal Holland
As people look for socially-distanced recreation close to home, the growing numbers of families and individuals out for walks or bike rides makes this a good time to review bicyclist and pedestrian traffic awareness.
The safety of active transportation users depends on traffic awareness by all involved.
Bicycle and pedestrian safety advocates often say that you should assume that drivers do not see you and take appropriate defensive actions. Some bicyclists go so far as to say (only partly joking) that cyclists should assume that they have a flashing light on their helmet that says “10 points.” A paranoid bicyclist in an urban setting can be excused for assuming that cars “are out to get them,” but that concern can promote greatly improved safety behavior by the rider.
A common complaint from some motorists is that bicyclists should be on the sidewalk because of their “dangerous behavior.” Yet, a recent study shows that bicyclists contributed to the cause of car/bicycle injury accidents only 2 percent of time by disobeying a stop sign or traffic light. Wearing dark clothing at night is a potential collision cause in about 2.5 percent of cases, and failure to use lights at night was mentioned 2 percent of the time.

Some motorists are not looking for cyclists, and cyclists are expecting motorists to see them when in fact the drivers don’t. Distracted driving (phone use, among other activities) only makes this problem worse.
Unfortunately, these same issues exist for pedestrians.
Sidewalk users need to be aware of motorist behavior and not just assume that the cars will yield appropriately. It does the pedestrian no good to be legally in the right but hit by a car.
Curb cuts have been a great benefit for disabled sidewalk users, but they tempt sidewalk bicyclists to blow through street crossings and can create a hazard if the bicyclists are not traffic aware. Pedestrians should try to establish eye contact with drivers before crossing the street.
All sidewalk users are considered pedestrians, even if they are riding a bike, in-line skating, using a power chair, or skate boarding. They must practice traffic awareness at intersections and crosswalks in anticipation that drivers are often not looking for them on the sidewalk. Simply entering the street because the pedestrian has the right of way can result in easily avoidable collisions.
Likewise, drivers being distracted by a phone or conversation can put pedestrians in danger.
Drivers need to scan the sidewalks on both sides of the street they are on and the street they are crossing to anticipate pedestrian behavior. A bicycle on the sidewalk can easily be traveling at 10 mph, so drivers need to “look ahead” and anticipate.
Just as pedestrians cannot assume that drivers see them, drivers cannot assume that pedestrians will behave correctly. And in both residential and business areas, where there are many parked cars on the sides of the street, drivers must assume that a pedestrian will sometimes decide to cross mid-block, emerging from between the cars. Drivers should look at the pedestrian’s face, which will often give clues about what they are going to do.
When road users and pedestrians make traffic awareness their first priority, everyone’s safety will improve dramatically.
  Kerry Irons is a retired chemical engineer who has lived in Holland for five years.  Irons is a lifelong cyclist who commuted to work by bike year-round for 30 years in central Michigan. He is a member of Pedal Holland, which advocates for bicycle safety in Holland.

This Week’s Sustainability Framework Theme
Transportation: The movement of people, goods and services within the area is an evolving system that links us to our regional, national and global networks.

Living Sustainably is a collection of community voices sharing updates about local sustainability initiatives. It is presented by the Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute, a joint project of Hope College, the City of Holland and Holland Board of Public Works. Go to for more information.

The safety of pedestrians and bicyclists depends on traffic safety awareness by everyone – active transportation users as well as motorists. Photo courtesy Jerry Foster
When road users and pedestrians make traffic awareness their first priority, everyone’s safety will improve dramatically. Photo courtesy Jerry Foster

Living Sustainably: Families are helping families with #StayHomeFightHunger

By Mike Goorhouse, The Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area
I am inspired by all of the quarantined individuals seeking out opportunities to connect and support one another during this time of social distancing.
People are engaging in impromptu concerts on balconies, coordinating two minutes of applause for those on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, or sewing face masks to donate.
In the Holland/Zeeland area, there are plenty of ways to help from the safety of your own home. One of those is the #StayHomeFightHunger campaign.
This family-friendly project was started by Community Action House, and I loved the idea so much I jumped on board to help promote it. It’s a great opportunity for kids of all ages to learn about and practice philanthropy!
Following a set of packing and delivery instructions found under the “Volunteer at Home” section of, families pack boxes with high-need items like pasta noodles and sauce, cans of meat, canned vegetables and fruit, paper towels, and soap. They can then decorate the box and add a caring note from their family.

When the box is dropped off at Community Action House, their staff will add fresh fruit and veggies, dairy products, bread and meat. One box can feed two people for seven days.
The need is high. Community Action House is currently providing 100 boxes each day to those struggling with food security, which is four times the amount of food they were serving before the COVID-19 crisis. Thankfully, our community is stepping up in big ways. Shoreline Container donated 4,000 of the perfect-size boxes, and more than 250 family food boxes were packed and delivered in the first week!
As an additional incentive to encourage others to participate in #StayHomeFightHunger, my family and I pledged a financial contribution to Community Action House, and later added Hand2Hand Ministries, for each family who packs a box. We’ve been joined in this commitment by four additional generous companies: Holland Doctors of Audiology, Lakewood Construction, PeopleIT, and The Insurance Group – Stacy Segrist-Kamphuis.
All together, each box that is donated leverages another $45 donation! All we ask is that you use the tag #StayHomeFightHunger on social media with a photo or video showing your box being delivered, and we’ll each make a donation.
As we all prioritize staying home to help slow the spread of COVID-19, let’s not forget those individuals in our community struggling with housing, food, and basic needs. Now is the time to act and join the fight against hunger. We can make it through this if we do it together.
 Mike Goorhouse is president of The Community Foundation of the Holland Zeeland Area.

This Week’s Sustainability Framework Theme
Quality of Life: The community, through governmental, religious, business and social organizations, makes decisions that contribute to its own well-being.

Living Sustainably is a collection of community voices sharing updates about local sustainability initiatives. It is presented by the Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute, a joint project of Hope College, the City of Holland and Holland Board of Public Works. Go to for more information.

Residents’ donations help their neighbors as Community Action House provides 100 boxes of food each day to people struggling with food security, four times the amount of food it was serving before the COVID-19 crisis.
Shoreline Container donated 4,000 boxes as part of the community support of the #StayHomeFightHunger campaign in Holland.
The Dolbow family, including children (left to right) Mary, Jackson, James and Eli, packed and decorated a food box as part of Holland’s #StayHomeFightHunger campaign.

Living Sustainably: highlights hope, positivity

By Mike Goorhouse, The Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area
Life can change so fast. Just two weeks ago, local school districts closed and people began to self-isolate amidst the COVID-19 outbreak. Earlier this week, Gov. Whitmer issued the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order which suspended activities that are not necessary to sustain or protect life.
The implications of the COVID-19 pandemic are global. Communities everywhere are feeling the economic and social impacts and doing their best to navigate these turbulent times. There are plenty of reasons to feel anxious, but let’s try our best to embrace hope and positivity.
Examples of good can be found everywhere: Salons donating gloves and masks, teachers driving through neighborhoods and waving to students, Hope College donating PPE supplies to the hospital, and breweries and distilleries creating hand sanitizer to combat shortages.

Another example of hope can be found in our local nonprofit sector. COVID-19 presented a major hurdle, as human service agencies had to balance their missions with unexpected expenses and logistical headaches of social distancing and decreased volunteers.
These organizations are already well-versed in collaboration and innovation, and they stepped up in a big way! Each day, local leadership shares resources and ideas to keep people housed, fed, and healthy.
Recognizing the need for a rapid, efficient and effective response to the impact of COVID-19, The Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area, Grand Haven Area Community Foundation, Greater Ottawa County United Way, Lakeshore Nonprofit Alliance, Community Spoke, and others formed a coalition.
We created a website:, that launched within 24 hours. The site provides a consolidated list of resources for those who need assistance or those looking for ways to help, such as making a financial gift or donating goods. In just 10 days, the website received over 15,000 unique visitors, and 250 people used the volunteer portal provided by Greater Ottawa County United Way.
Financial donations to the newly created Emergency Human Needs Funds, created with seed money from the Holland/Zeeland and Grand Haven area community foundations and United Way, have exceeded $400,000. These donations are then distributed in real-time to the human service agencies in our community that are struggling to keep people fed, housed, and healthy. So far, 18 local organizations have received grants to help bridge the increased demand for assistance.
We’re in this together, so visit and share the site: Help everyone in our county learn about this resource – whether they need assistance or want to find a way to make a difference.
The need is great, and no gift of time or resources is too small. There are even opportunities to help from the safety of your home! Let’s join together in hope and positivity and keep our community strong.
 Mike Goorhouse is president of The Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area.

This Week’s Sustainability Framework Theme
Community & Neighborhood: The places we live and the individuals we interact with support the development of our personalities and perspectives on life. Encouraging vital and effective communities is essential.

Living Sustainably is a collection of community voices sharing updates about local sustainability initiatives. It is presented by the Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute, a joint project of Hope College, the City of Holland and Holland Board of Public Works. Go to for more information.

Living the volunteerism that’s part of the Care Ottawa County Coalition, Zeeland teacher Missy Nellis packs boxes with groceries being given out in curbside pickup at Harvest Stand Ministries in Zeeland.
Local businesses have joined the response to the COVID-19 crisis, including New Holland Brewing and Coppercraft Distillery, using their facilities to make hand sanitizer.

Living Sustainably: Book project empowers, uplifts children

By Zahabia Ahmed-Usmani and Erin Davison, Diversity Rocks the Book
How do we empower and uplift children of all identities and backgrounds? How do we help children understand their peers’ experiences so they grow up empathetic to experiences outside of their own?
The City of Holland’s Human Relations Commission took up this charge through a program called Diversity Rocks the Book whose mission is to empower all children to see themselves and value others through books.
These “diverse books reflect the world as it is, not the way the world never was and the way the world never will be,” explains Ezra Hyland, of the University of Minnesota. The breadth of diversity our children can be exposed to through books is boundless as more and more stories are being published honoring many different identities and experiences.

Our community is changing and so is the world. The more we equip our children for this reality the better. The noted scholar S.I. Hayakawa pointed out that, “It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish.”
To successfully share diverse books, parents, educators and care providers need to overcome the incorrect messages they have received their whole lives: That drawing attention to someone’s race, ability, or status is taboo; that we should just treat everyone the same; and that in 2020 we no longer have any biases or discrimination. These myths neglect to recognize each person’s unique experience, the advantages and oppressions that brings, as well as the beauty their lives bring into the worlds of others.
As mental health concerns rise in our youth populations, we can only grow from exposure to diverse stories. Stereotypes are rooted in limited information and a lack of exposure to counteract that limited information. Diverse books and talking about the very real diversity that surrounds us is a critical way to mitigate stereotypes and biases.
Diversity Rocks the Book does this by putting diverse books in the hands of our Holland school students and by providing educational opportunities for educators on how to share these books with students thanks to the partnership with Herrick District Library.
The program also offers guest readers to visit classrooms to share the books. Since Diversity Rocks the Book launched in 2018, the program has distributed more than 600 picture books and middle grade novels to Holland schools, sent 45 guest readers from the community to make 60 classroom visits, and reached more than 1,500 students.
As Diversity Rocks the Book looks to the future, it will focus on sustainability as well as sharing this model with other communities, creating inclusive communities for all. If you would like to find out more about Diversity Rocks the Book, please visit
 Zahabia Ahmed-Usmani is program coordinator of Kaufman Interfaith Institute at Grand Valley State University. Erin Davison is children’s librarian at Herrick District Library. They are members of the Diversity Rocks the Book Planning Team.

This Week’s Sustainability Framework Theme
Community & Neighborhood: The places we live and the individuals we interact with support the development of our personalities and perspectives on life. Encouraging vital and effective communities is essential.

Living Sustainably is a collection of community voices sharing updates about local sustainability initiatives. It is presented by the Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute, a joint project of Hope College, the City of Holland and Holland Board of Public Works. Go to for more information.

Deb VanDuinen reads to 4th  and 5th  grade students at Black River Public School in the project aimed at growing children’s understanding of others.
Tim Marroquin reads to students at Gateway Preschool in the Diversity Rocks the Book project.
Patty Schoettley reads to 3 rd  grade students at Holland Heights in the project that uses books to help students better understand themselves and value others.

Living Sustainably: Holland can “carbon fast” faster

By Anne Saliers, Holland Board of Public Works
Many schools, churches, and community groups encourage people to use this time of year to look more closely at their consumption of energy and carbon. The term “carbon fast” has become popular as a way to highlight practices that conserve energy resources. Using less energy means your lifestyle emits less carbon into the atmosphere, hence, you are practicing a fast.
There are two key ways to carbon fast to reduce your carbon footprint – use equipment that is more energy efficient and change your energy consumption behaviors.
Examples of using more energy efficient equipment include changing your light bulbs to LED (light emitting diode) bulbs, buying Energy Star appliances, and driving an electric vehicle.

Examples of changing your behaviors to consume less energy include turning off the lights when you leave a room, playing outside instead of on your electronic game system, and learning to live with just one refrigerator.
Becoming a world-class energy efficient city is the goal of Holland’s long-range Community Energy Plan. Think of it as a carbon fast for the whole city.
In 2010, Holland’s carbon footprint was 24 metric tons per person. Before the Community Energy Plan was developed, we were on a path to reach 37 metric tons per person by 2050. Now, with the plan in place, if we implement it fully, we can absorb population and industry growth and still reduce our carbon footprint to 10 metric tons per person.
All users of energy from the Holland Board of Public Works benefited immensely from the building of the Holland Energy Park, with its combined-cycle natural gas technology instead of coal, plus BPW’s increased use of renewable energy. Also, much progress toward the goal has been made through your participation in Holland BPW’s and SEMCO’s energy waste reduction programs, and the completion of home energy retrofits.
Ten years into the 40-year plan, how are we doing? A recent calculation, based on calendar year 2018, shows Holland’s carbon footprint is 19 metric tons per person. To go from 24 metric tons to 19 is a big stride in eight years, and everyone should feel proud of how they have contributed. 2018 Calculation.

Residential buildings were 16.4 percent of the City of Holland’s emissions in 2018. Industry was 43.4 percent, commercial businesses were 27.5 percent, and transportation represented 11.7 percent. 2010, 2015, 2018 Numbers.

The residential sector made the biggest stride with a 31 percent decrease in electric carbon emissions since 2010.
Some feel the community is not making progress fast enough, that science shows we don’t have until 2050, and that we need to reach for a goal of less than 10 metric tons per person. In other words, that we should carbon fast faster.
A faster carbon fast will happen if every person and every business make the next reductions happen.
It’s the accumulation of small, incremental steps taken sooner, rather than later, that will get us there faster.
So, think about what you, your family, your business can do to reduce your carbon footprint. Invest in energy efficiency and make wise energy choices. And if you want carbon-free electricity from your utility company, for a small premium per kilowatt hour, elect to have all of your electricity come from renewable energy. To learn more, visit
 Anne Saliers is community energy services manager at Holland Board of Public Works and a City of Holland resident.

This Week’s Sustainability Framework Theme
Smart Energy: We need to use both conservation and efficiency measures to manage our resources to provide access to reliable and cost-effective energy.

Living Sustainably is a collection of community voices sharing updates about local sustainability initiatives. It is presented by the Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute, a joint project of Hope College, the City of Holland and Holland Board of Public Works. Go to for more information.

Construction of the Holland Energy Park, with its combined-cycle natural gas technology, helped make a significant reduction in Holland residents’ carbon footprints.

Living Sustainably: It all starts with a turn of a page

By Beth Peter, MD, Ready for School
If you’re reading this, you can read a book to a child. Look around you at the children in your life and consider your big hopes for them. Now consider this: Making reading a part of every child’s day is your way to start simple and build toward bigger hopes.
As a physician who provides care to many children in this community, I am increasingly grateful for the work of Ready for School, recently named the West Michigan affiliate of Reach Out and Read (ROR), a national program that incorporates books into pediatric care and encourages families to read aloud together.
At the beginning of every well-child visit from ages 6 months to 5 years, ROR medical providers give each child a new, developmentally-appropriate book to take home. Handing a book to an anxious child or parent helps place their future success in their hands. It remains among the highlights of my work day. Following kids through the years, knowing they have nine high quality books (more if they have siblings!) by the time they reach kindergarten, is a tangible way to move my hopes for each kid to reality.

I have big hopes for kids – my kids, your kids, your grandkids, the neighborhood kids and all the kids in this corner of America. I hope they will grow into productive humans who strengthen our community through service and innovation. I dream they will help us be more kind and just. Reading aloud with a child, for 15 minutes a day, can change that child’s trajectory in life.
Reading aloud exposes kids to a wider variety of words and helps build vocabulary in ways that usual conversation does not. The more we read to our children, the more neurons make connections which then help build curiosity and memory. Reading aloud helps children cope during times of stress and anxiety, crucial skills in navigating future unexpected life challenges.
Reading enlarges and enhances their world, taking children to places and times they never experienced. It builds empathy for different backgrounds and perspectives.
Finally, reading aloud with kids creates an experience that nurtures a positive association with books, caregivers, and reading. The experience becomes the foundation for kids who become lifelong readers.
Despite the incredible potential of this simple habit, the most recent study from Read shows only 30 percent of American families read regularly with their children.
Reading to kids can be a challenge. I understand. Wiggly kids don’t seem to pay much attention to books. Read with them anyway. Parents may never have had a love of reading modeled in their own childhood. Model it for them anyway. Families are overworked and overscheduled. Read with your kids anyway.
Look around you at the children in your life. Then take a deep breath and open a book with a kid. It all starts with a turn of a page.
 Dr. Beth Peter, MD, is a family medicine physician in Holland with Lakewood Family Medicine. She also serves on Ready for School’s Board of Directors.

This Week’s Sustainability Framework Theme
Community Knowledge: The collective knowledge and energy of the community is an incredible resource that must be channeled to where it is needed.

Living Sustainably is a collection of community voices sharing updates about local sustainability initiatives. It is presented by the Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute, a joint project of Hope College, the City of Holland and Holland Board of Public Works. Go to for more information.

Dr. Beth Peter is among doctors who give books to encourage reading among young patients.
Reading aloud with a child for 15 minutes a day can change that child’s trajectory in life – enhancing learning, building curiosity and memory, and enlarging their world and future possibilities.
Doctors are providing children with new books to take home because they know the many ways that reading aloud to a child enhances brain and social development.