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News, Events, and Updates from Reach Out and Read

Empowering Parents of Preschoolers with the Nemours Preschool Reading Screener

Reach Out and Read partners, Nemours BrightStart! have released the 2nd Annual Reading Readiness Snapshot for America's Preschoolers - a guest blog post from Laura Bailet and Kathy Ingram at Nemours BrightStart! 

Nemours logoLearning to read is a challenging task for the brain, and one of the most important developmental tasks facing young children.  Only about a third of U. S. students score as 'proficient' readers (Nation's Report Card, 2016). In response to overwhelming evidence that the foundation for successful reading is built in the early years, when a young child's brain is highly responsive, adaptable and attuned to learning language, the Nemours Children's Health System has created Nemours BrightStart to research, develop and offer evidence-based tools targeting young children at risk for reading failure. One of our tools, the Nemours online Preschool Reading Screener, is an effective, free screener that is widely available and easy to complete, to identify children in need of assistance early.

For children between birth and five years, developmental screening is often the domain of pediatricians, as part of routine developmental surveillance (Halfon et al., 2004).  However, even with well-established guidelines and reliable tools, nearly half of all children fail to receive recommended screening (Halfon et al., 2004; Sand et al., 2005). For children with subtle developmental problems, such as reading readiness delays, 70 percent or more may go undetected (Glascoe, 2000) with the current system.  Part of the challenge is time constraints for the pediatrician, and lack of an easy and effective screening tool.

Parents often play a central role in developmental screenings of their children.  Research shows that, if questions are clearly stated, they are able to respond accurately (Dewey, Crawford, & Kaplan, 2003; Fenson et al., 1994; Glascoe, 2000).  Studies also show that parental self-efficacy and parenting competence are positively correlated when parenting knowledge is high (Bornstein et al., 2010).  Yet parents' specific knowledge of key normal developmental indicators and milestones in the preschool years is low (Bornstein et al., 2010).

Nemours BrightStart!Completion of a straightforward screener thus may serve simultaneously to increase parents' knowledge, promote greater intentionality with early literacy activities at home, and improve future reading outcomes.  The Nemours' Preschool Reading Screener  is designed for this purpose.  It contains 31 questions organized into key reading readiness skills including oral language, letter knowledge, phonological awareness, and beginning writing.  Parents receive a rating of their child's skill levels and an action plan. Thousands of parents of 3-, 4- and 5-year old children have completed the screener and a summary of their results can be found in the 2nd Annual Reading Readiness Snapshot for America's Preschoolers released this week. The Snapshot reports:

Snapshot image

Out of a maximum possible 31 points, the average score for 3-year olds is 18; for 4-year olds, 23; and for 5-year olds, 26.  Not surprising, 3-year olds earn most of their points on oral language items and also have some beginning knowledge of rhyming and beginning sounds.  For 4-year olds, the emergence of letter knowledge is especially striking; nearly 68% of them are able to identify at least 18 upper case letters, a skill that is vital for being on track for reading success as they move into kindergarten.  More than 90% of 5-year olds demonstrate strong letter naming skills, and skill with letter sounds and with rhyming are also strong.  Blending words is easier for 5-year olds than breaking them apart.

The Snapshot shows how preschoolers are actually doing in reading readiness, according to the people who know them best: their parents.  With reasonable efforts to expose young children to books, language, drawing and writing, they will develop a solid foundation for future reading success.  Screening for early literacy skills can be empowering and motivating for parents; they want to know early if their child is on track with reading readiness skills, or may need increased home literacy activities and book reading opportunities.  It also helps parents understand connections between oral language, reading and writing, which in turn helps them offer a broader array of experiences, woven into their daily routines, that ultimately support reading development.


Bornstein, M. H., Cote, L. R., Haynes, O. M., Hahn, C., & Park, Y. (2010). Parenting knowledge: Experiential and sociodemographic factors in European American mothers of young children.Developmental Psychology, 46(6), 1677-1693.

Dewey, D., Crawford, S. G., & Kaplan, B. J. (2003). Clinical importance of parent ratings of everyday cognitive abilities in children with learning and attention problems.Journal of Learning Disabilities, 36(1), 87-95.

Fenson, L., Dale, P. S., Reznick, S., Bates, E., Thal, D. J., Pethick, S. J., . . . Stiles, J. (1994). Variability in communicative development.Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 59(5), 1-185.

Glascoe, F. P. (2000).  Early detection of developmental and behavioral problems. Pediatrics in Review, 21(8), 272-280.

Halfon, N., Regalado, H. S., Inkelas, M., Peck Reuland, C. H.,Glascoe, F. P., & Olson, L. M. (2004). Assessing development in the pediatric office.Pediatrics, 113(6), 1926-1933.

Nation's Report Card. (n.d.).2015 mathematics and reading assessments. Retrieved July 21, 2016, from http://www.nationsreportcard.gov/reading_math_2015/#reading?grade=4

Sand, N., Silverstein, M., Glascoe, F. P., Gupta, V. B., Tonniges, T. P., & O'Connor, K. G. (2005). Pediatricians' reported practices regarding developmental screening: Do guidelines work? Do they help?Pediatrics, 116(1), 174-179.


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Written by Kathy Ingram, Laura Bailet at 14:30

Brush, Book, Bed - The Best Bedtime Routine

Reach Out and Read is partnering with the American Academy of Pediatrics to introduce the Brush, Book, Bed program
Written by Michelle Steffen, MD, FAAP; Lauren Barone, MPH at 14:30

Positive Parenting Overcomes the Effects of Poverty on Brain Development

New research shows that positive parenting can overcome the effects of poverty on healthy brain development in adolescents.  In a report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Brody and colleagues described a neuroimaging study demonstrating that supportive parenting prevented the reduced growth of certain areas of the brain that occurred as a response to living in poverty.

Positive parenting and brain development

Numerous studies on the association of poverty with poor academic and psychosocial outcomes in childhood have pointed to the critical role of stress on brain development. Physical and social stress that often occurs during childhood in lower socioeconomic environments can influence the growth of the brain. In particular, there is evidence that development of the amygdala and hippocampus, brain regions that support learning, memory, mood and stress reactivity, is suppressed in disadvantaged children.

Brody et al conducted a neuroimaging study on 119 25-year-olds who had participated as adolescents in the Strong African American Families randomized trial (SAAF), a program designed to mitigate the negative effect of life stress on rural African American youths by encouraging positive parenting.  The intention of the study was to correlate the size of specific areas of the hippocampus and amygdala in these individuals, as determined by magnetic resonance imaging, with the number of years between the ages of 11 and 18 that they had lived under the federal poverty line. 

The results showed that, in the control population that had not been enrolled into the SAAF program, more time spent living in poverty was associated with smaller than average volume in areas of the amygdala and hippocampus. The good news was that this suppressive effect of poverty on brain maturation was prevented in those youths whose families had the benefit of the SAAF intervention. The promotion of positive parenting had conferred resilience to the stress of poverty. Importantly, this protective effect was detected at age 25 - it had lasted into adulthood. 

Interestingly, these positive results were achieved in a program serving the families of adolescent children. More than 95% of brain development occurs during the first six years of life, and the brain is particularly susceptible to the stress associated with poverty during this timeframe

Through the Reach Out and Read program, pediatric care providers are able to take advantage of their access to children during these early years. They encourage parents to spend time engaging with their young children through looking at books together starting in infancy,building the parent-child bonds that will alleviate the effects of adverse circumstances in the early years. 

This study encourages us that, through interventions that help parents to bring up their children in a positive, responsive way, it is possible to buffer against the consequences of poverty and low socioeconomic environments.  Leveling the playing field for disadvantaged children in this way can contribute to closing the achievement gap.

Written by Nikki Shearman at 08:32

Fables and Folklore: Stories that Teach Kids Lessons

A guest blog written by Rachelle Wilber, a freelance writer.

Today, fairy tales may just be something your kids want to hear over and over again before bedtime, but modern stories that are beloved by children like the wildly acclaimed "Frozen" can be traced back thousands of years. Some of the earliest and most recognized fables such as Aesop's Fables, originated around 550 BC. In times where wisdom, not academia, constituted education, fables were not just a form of entertainment, but a method of teaching. Children were given warnings, taught morals, and introduced to concepts such as enmity, forgiveness and love in a manner that was as memorable as it was entertaining.

Origins of Fables


People told one another stories before language had even been invented. Cave drawings prove that humanity's oldest ancestors communicated through story-like concepts, and as mankind evolved, symbols scrawled in stone became words that were interwoven to create characters and new worlds, all grounded in a meaningful story.

The best-known Western fables can mostly be attributed to a slave from ancient Greece named Aesop. Fables such as "The Lion and the Mouse" and "The Tortoise and the Hare" that are used today to teach children about the importance of diligence and discernment came from Aesop. The principles that underscored every fable was a formula that spread throughout the Western world and is evident in other famous fables and folklore such as the iconic Grimm's Fairy Tales and the deeply cherished, unforgettable stories of Hans Christian Andersen.

Folklore vs. Fable

Although the two words are often used interchangeably, there is a slight difference between "folklore" and "fables." Folklore is a story that has been passed down through generations orally. Folklore usually features people as its main characters and carries a large twist at the end, while fables usually involve animals or mythical creatures as its protagonists and deliver a specific moral.

In one sentence, a fable is a very real lesson taught through fantasy, and folklore is an entertaining story that changes from culture to culture, just like the people within them. You're never too old for fairy tales, and teaching children the most beloved stories of the past cultivates a love of history that can lead them down wonderful paths both academically and personally. Just like grandpa earned an online history degree, children can pursue their new interests throughout a variety of ways over the course of their lives.

Teaching Children through Fables

fables2Many parents are concerned that reading fantasy to their children might lead them to develop overactive imaginations or skewed perceptions of reality, but what's wonderful about fables, fairy tales and folklore is that they reach children on a level they're able to understand. Children possess the magical quality of being able to appreciate both the real and imagined equally. You can pick and choose - or even invent - fables that fit the specific themes in your child's life right now.

No matter which direction you go in, there is something wonderfully potent about hearing fables and folklore growing up that imbues childhood with a sense of wonder that forever lives in the back of our minds as memories and manifests itself in our choices.

Written by Reach Out and Read - Communications at 11:00

Helping Children Understand, Discuss, and Process the Election Through Books

A booklist produced jointly by the American Academy of Pediatrics and Reach Out and Read

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