A Recipe for Success Mary Jo Weinig, MS, CCC-SLP Name: Mary Jo Weinig, MS, CCC-SLP Title: Founder, Read a Recipe for Literacy Location: New York and Florida Consider the potato. Not much to think about at first, until you plant, harvest, prepare, and eat them. Now consider the children living ... In the Limelight
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In the Limelight  |   November 01, 2011
A Recipe for Success
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  • Kellie Rowden-Racette, print and online editor for The ASHA Leader , can be reached at krowden-racette@asha.org.
    Kellie Rowden-Racette, print and online editor for The ASHA Leader , can be reached at krowden-racette@asha.org.×
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Development / Speech, Voice & Prosodic Disorders / Swallowing, Dysphagia & Feeding Disorders / Normal Language Processing / In the Limelight
In the Limelight   |   November 01, 2011
A Recipe for Success
The ASHA Leader, November 2011, Vol. 16, 27. doi:10.1044/leader.LML.16152011.27
The ASHA Leader, November 2011, Vol. 16, 27. doi:10.1044/leader.LML.16152011.27
Mary Jo Weinig, MS, CCC-SLP
Name: Mary Jo Weinig, MS, CCC-SLP
Title: Founder, Read a Recipe for Literacy
Location: New York and Florida
Consider the potato. Not much to think about at first, until you plant, harvest, prepare, and eat them. Now consider the children living in a small, rural community on Long Island, N.Y. They learned not only about the unassuming potato, but also about communication, community, and healthful living through a unique program, “Read a Recipe for Literacy.”
The program’s founder, speech-language pathologist Mary Jo Weinig, knows this Long Island community, which was once blanketed with potato fields. Weinig called on that history, as well as the community, for her program. One hour a week for six weeks, the children met at the neighborhood public library. They were greeted by a member of the community, who told them about potatoes—all aspects of the tuber, from growing, processing, and (best of all) eating them. The speakers also told the children the importance of communication and how reading and writing make all the difference. The children then completed a communication activity, which always included writing in their recipe books, each week building on the week before.
“The kids loved it! They learned so much and we were able to develop their communication skills in a thoroughly engaging, fun way,” Weinig said. “The children and for that matter, the speakers, always came back for more.”
Founded in 2007, Read a Recipe for Literacy was originally intended for adult immigrants on Long Island and in Jupiter, Fla., where Weinig spends time. To get people into their local public libraries, what better lure than food? And although food is central to the program, the overarching message is that people can overcome community problems through communication.
“We use the word ’recipe’ literally and figuratively,” she said. “We discuss healthful living, exercise, food, and nutrition, but the local mayor also gave us his ’recipe’ for running the town. And Ray, a Florida fisherman, gave us tips for catching a bluefish.”
This unique program is the result of Weinig’s own recipe for following a different professional path. After receiving an undergraduate degree in art history and English and receiving a fellowship that led to a master’s degree in fine arts, Weinig intermittently studied and lived in Italy for seven years, working in textile conservation and “any other job” she could find to stay in Italy. When she returned to the states she lived in New York City, where her passion led to a position in textiles at the American Natural History Museum. She met her husband, an entrepreneur and adjunct professor at Columbia University, and took advantage of the university connection to investigate the speech-language pathology program at Teachers College, Columbia University. She sensed a good fit.
“I remember thinking, here are some skills I could use to help people,” she said.
Weinig always has been a big believer in volunteerism and when she graduated from Columbia, she looked for volunteer opportunities that would tap her speech-language skills.
“I really wanted to work with people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, but there weren’t many volunteer opportunities then, and I didn’t want to take a position from another SLP actively looking for a job,” she explained.
Not one to give up easily, Weinig found her own way to reach out to members of the community through Read a Recipe for Literacy.
Today the program serves both children and adults. Weinig has stayed true to helping people through communication, community, and healthful living. Read a Recipe for Literacy has branched out to three sites in Florida and New York, with plans to go national.
“We need more strong partnerships and more great volunteers,” she said. “Read a Recipe runs on a nearly complete volunteer basis. The program has never paid a speaker and the fact is, people want to give back. My speech-language pathology skills have been of crucial importance to the program. I recognize when there are certain challenges, what they might be, and how we can deal with them. Getting these kids to learn to communicate better, that’s everything.”
Contact Mary Jo Weinig, MS, CCC-SLP, founder of Read a Recipe for Literacy, at mjm95@columbia.edu.
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November 2011
Volume 16, Issue 15