22 kids books for oral health education

By the CDHP team

The following guest blog post was written by Katy Battani, Health Education Coordinator at the Maryland Dental Action Coalition, and Mary Ann Williams, Research, Education and Outreach Librarian at the Health Sciences & Human Services Library, University of Maryland, Baltimore.

Efforts to improve oral health literacy tend to focus on parents, but raising children’s awareness of oral health is important too. The Maryland Dental Action Coalition and the University of Maryland, Baltimore Health Sciences and Human Services Library are teaming up to advance this goal through the power of reading. Just in time for summer reading activities, our organizations have released a recommended list of 22 oral health books for children under the age of seven.

Recognizing that books play an important role in the lives of young children, an interprofessional team was developed to review over 50 children’s books focused on oral health and create a list, including the categories of oral health care, visiting the dentist, and general information about teeth. A recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health shows that many low-income parents in Maryland did not know how to advise their children to brush their teeth, were confused about what causes tooth decay, and were uninformed about the importance of fluoride. Our book list will help support increased access to oral health information for children, families, and health professionals—and will help guide those who purchase and utilize children’s books to promote good oral health.

Our reading list includes several books available in Spanish, building on the success of our Spanish-language oral health literacy campaign, Dientes Sanos, Niños Sanos (Healthy Teeth, Healthy Kids). As a result of the campaign, there were significant improvements in oral health knowledge and behaviors among Spanish-speaking mothers.

For example, books such as “Mouth” and “All About Teeth” provide simple oral health messages for young children, and are available in both English and Spanish. The book, “Brush, Floss, and Rinse” is suitable for a slightly older audience of children (pre-school through 1st grade) and is available in Spanish as well. Additionally, a newer book titled, “Toothful Tales, Becoming Me Cavity Free!” is highly recommended as it’s written to help educate children as well as women (before and during pregnancy), new mothers, parents, and caregivers. 

In addition to increasing access to oral health information by the public and raising awareness about the importance of good oral health, the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly encourages reading aloud with young children as one of the most effective ways to enrich language and encourage early literacy skills needed to promote school readiness. Regular reading, early conversations, and play activities around books increase parent-child interaction and strengthen these relationships, which are essential to a child’s development.

Child-serving organizations, health care professionals, educators, and families can access the list online at http://guides.hshsl.umaryland.edu/dentistry/DentalBooksForChildren. The website provides additional information including a “key” that identifies specific information included in each book and additional comments from the review team.  Books available in Spanish are listed in a separate category. Visitors can also suggest a book to be reviewed, send a comment, and request to receive updates as the project continues.

Moreover, the “Spread the Word” section allows visitors to share how they have used the book list, the library’s subject guide, or specific books on the list, as well as share tweets, newsletter mentions, photos, and so on. To learn more about this project, visit www.mdac.us.

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Children with poor oral health were nearly 3x more likely to miss school due to dental pain.
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