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A powerful combination of health and education services gives young children a better start at school.

The school year has begun and nearly 50 million children in the U.S. have returned to class. Roughly 3.5 million children have started school for the first time. Unfortunately, at least a third, more than 1 million, of these children will enter kindergarten without either the cognitive or social-emotional skills necessary to start to learn. Research has shown that children who start school at such a disadvantage struggle to catch up - they are more likely to fail third grade reading tests, and less likely to graduate from high school. Many of these children will grow up to live in poverty.

How can we ensure that children start school ready to learn?

Bringing together the health and education sections of our communities creates a powerful combination. It has the capacity to start early and then continue through a child's education and into adult life. AASA, the School Superintendents Association, an organization focused on providing quality public education for all students, and Reach Out and Read, an early literacy organization that works through pediatric care, both work to help prepare children for school right from the start.aasa

A recent article from the American Academy of Pediatrics' Council of Early Childhood and Council on School Health examined the Pediatrician's Role in Optimizing School Readiness and stated "..within the context of a medical home, which provides compassionate, coordinated, family-centered, accessible, and culturally sensitive care, the pediatrician will have a foremost role in monitoring the critical elements of early experiences that foster school readiness."

In our last blog post, Dr Beth Toolan, a pediatrician at Providence Health Centers, wrote about how, as a Reach Out and Read provider, she talks with parents about the importance of reading aloud to their young children, offering them at least one way of giving their infants, toddlers and preschoolers a better start. "Infancy is such a crucial time," she says "And with the Reach Out and Read Program, I am able to access these families when it matters most."

Melinda Smith, Superintendent of North Providence School Department (RI) has written a companion piece describing how, in North Providence, she has helped to lead a "network of community service partners, health care professionals and local pediatricians" that collectively prepare young children for school. From providing a "Little Lending Library" to serving dinner for young siblings when parents collect their children from school, Supt. Smith illustrates how schools can be a community partner and a resource for children ages birth to five and their families. She says "[I have a responsibility as Superintendent] to ensure that our schools connect with families well before children enter our school system to promote healthy lifestyles, provide access to community resources that will all contribute to the breakdown of the roadblocks to learning and give all children an equal chance at school success."

Written by Reach Out and Read - Communications at 14:24

Reach Out and Read Celebrates Read a Book Day 2016

A guest blog celebrating Read a Book Day from Dr. Beth Toolan, Pediatrician at Providence Community Health Centers and Reach Out and Read Rhode Island Provider of the Year.

Reading opens the door to a world of possibilities. It promotes creative thinking, imagination, and encourages children to move outside themselves and understand others. From the Berenstain Bears and Dr. Seuss's characters, to Winnie the Pooh, Skippy John Jones, Nancy Drew, Captain Underpants, and now Harry Potter, these books weave a tapestry that connects parents to children and joins families to communities.


I work at Providence Community Health Centers, an inner city clinic, and my patients are low income, culturally diverse, and often unable to read or speak English. As a Reach Out and Read provider, I know that talking about the importance of reading aloud to young children offers families at least one way of giving their infants, toddlers and preschoolers a better start. We know that children's brains begin developing rapidly from birth. There is so much data supporting the fact that reading to children from infancy promotes language development, brain growth, and school readiness. It has also been shown to improve behavior, attention and social-emotional development. Infancy is a crucial time, and with the Reach Out and Read Program, I am able to access these families when it matters most. 



There are so many examples of how the Reach Out and Read program has impacted individuals. One young mother of an 18-month-old girl showed up at her visit having taken the bus from the residential substance abuse program where they were staying. When I entered the room for her visit, she had several of the books I had given her at past visits out on the exam table, and she told me they were her daughter's favorite things. Despite having to travel on the bus, she brought these valuable things with her to entertain her daughter, and was delighted to get her next book to share with her daughter.  Another joyful example of how this program impacts patients involved a three-year-old child of two teenage parents. I had given her an ABC book at her request while I examined her younger sister. I turned to see her sitting on her teenage father's lap, turning the pages of the book, animatedly pointing out the pictures and explaining it to him, while he listened attentively.


On September 6, National Read a Book Day, I encourage everyone not only to experience the joys of reading a book for yourself, but to share books with your young children to give them a foundation for success.

Written by Reach Out and Read - Communications at 10:26

Breaking News! The New York Times Sunday Review

Dear Reach Out and Read supporter,


I am writing to draw your attention to an article that ran last Sunday in the New York Times Sunday Review section, which cited Reach Out and Read as part of an important-and encouraging-trend that is big news for children and parents in this country, and should help and encourage us all in the work we do. "The Good News About Educational Inequality," was authored by two professors of education and a professor of social work.  In this piece, they discuss the apparent paradox that the performance gap between high-income and low-income children has begun to shrink, even though the economic inequality is worsening.  In other words, they explain, "Children entering kindergarten today are more equally prepared than they were in the late 1990s."


This improvement, they argue, is directly related to the parenting practices which help low-income children:  "What has changed is that low-income children are now getting more of what the political scientist Robert Putnam calls " 'Goodnight Moon' time" than they did in the 1990s. That's excellent news."


They go on to raise the question of how this came about, in the setting of increasing income inequality, and here is what they say: "We suspect that in part this happened because of the widespread diffusion of a single powerful idea: that the first few years of a child's life are the most consequential for cognitive development."  They point out that the achievement gap grew, in part, because of the ways that high-income parents "invested" in the cognitive development of their young children.  The article goes on:  "Why are low-income families now adopting these parenting practices? It may be partly a result of public information campaigns like Reach Out and Read...."  You can read the full article here. The authors are Sean F. ReardonJane Waldfogel, and Daphna Bassok.


 nyt sunday review

As you know, we've been doing Reach Out and Read for 27 years now, and we've had a widespread network for almost two decades and continue to expand rapidly.  Reading this article will give you a sense of how experts in other fields are measuring some of the most important outcomes that we are trying to affect every day in our exam rooms.  It's wonderful to see evidence that the education gap is narrowing, even if the income gap is not-that low-income children are coming to school with better skills and a better chance.  And it's great to see the efforts and dedication of all those parents acknowledged as the key factor that we know it to be-that "Goodnight Moon" time which does so much for children in so many ways.


When the authors of this essay cite us as one of the key interventions in getting out the message to parents, it's a recognition of the time and effort that you have put in to build and support this network, and to help pediatric primary care providers deliver the message, the anticipatory guidance, the modeling, and the books to so many parents all around the United States, to help them do what they all want to do-give their children the best possible start.


As the authors say of Reach Out and Read and Too Small to Fail, "these campaigns represent an effort to ensure that our knowledge about the unique importance of early childhood helps everyone. Like a new medical innovation that is first adopted by the wealthy but then becomes commonplace, the emphasis on public and private investments in young children has helped turn a benefit for the rich into an equalizing force in society."


We want to celebrate this news with you, our partners, and our supporters-above all, to celebrate what parents are doing for their children, and the ways that the children's skills are improving-though, as the article points out, there is still a long way to go, and educating parents needs to be part of larger initiatives to reduce inequalities and disparities. We are proud to be acknowledged as part of this good news, and eager to work with you and your networks-and through them with families and clinicians-to go on making things better.



Perri Klass, M.D.
National Medical Director
Reach Out and Read 


Written by Perri Klass at 00:00

The Reach Out and Read Board of Directors Welcomes Two Influential Early Literacy Advocates

The Reach Out and Read Board of Directors is delighted to welcome two new members, Claudia Aristy and Evan Keyser. Claudia and Evan bring inspiring past experiences and individual perspectives to the Board that will support the organization's future growth and development.

Claudia Aristy has witnessed Reach Out and Read from every aspect of the program - first as a mother, then as a Parent Educator, and finally, as a Volunteer Trainer, and Director of the Reach Out and Read Program at Bellevue Hospital. These multiple roles give her a working knowledge and understanding of the Reach Out and Read model from the viewpoint of the families we serve.claudia-quote-background

As a mother inspired by the Reach Out and Read mission, Claudia went on to work as a bilingual Parent Educator in the Bellevue waiting room. She enjoyed spending her time directly in the clinic, speaking to parents about the importance of reading aloud and preparing them for the conversation that would take place later in the examination room with the pediatrician. "It is so grounding. All of us who have done this work - we would all agree - we do it for the children," says Claudia. 

Since 2013, Claudia has been Director of Children of Bellevue's Reach Out and Read Program and The HELP Project. In addition, Claudia serves on the Advisory Board of Leyendo Juntos, a Reach Out and Read initiative to support Latino families in their native language, and Reach Out and Read of Greater NY. Claudia is an inspiring mentor for new program site directors who have heard about Bellevue's continued success through Reach Out and Read.

"It's such an honor to hold this position," says Claudia. "I hope to bring the reality of everyday Reach Out and Read in the clinic. I have been on all ends of Reach Out and Read - I've been there as a mom, as a Parent Educator, a Trainer for Volunteers, and now a Director. I bring many different perspectives and I hope that will benefit the mission as a whole and hopefully inform some of the realities of the program."


Evan Keyser's professional, extensive knowledge of finance will help to strengthen Reach Out and Read's organizational acumen as we continue to focus on strong and stable financial-management.

With over 9 years working in investment banking, Evan will support our strategic financial planning.

Supporting families and children has been a central theme of Evan's life. His mother taught orthopedically handicapped students in the Kansas City public school system and he frequently visited his mother's classroom and communicated with the students through reading and writing. Evan believes that these interactions helped to build a foundation for these students and was a wonderful way to connect with them on a personal level.

evan-quote-backgroundAs a volunteer for both Operation Breakthrough Kansas City and The Ronald McDonald House Kansas City, he has dedicated time to serving the lives of sick or needy children and to supporting their families, which helped to remove some of the burden associated with their situations.

"Throughout my formative years, I was surrounded by people and programs focused on helping children realize their full potentials through reading," Evan says. "Now, years later, I maintain the same desire to support the relationship between children and reading, albeit through a different lens, and am honored to contribute my views, abilities and experiences to further bolster the impact provided by Reach Out and Read."

Brian Gallagher, CEO of Reach Out and Read, says, "I am excited to welcome Claudia and Evan to our national Board of Directors.  Each brings a unique and critical perspective to our organization, and I know Reach Out and Read will benefit from the many contributions they will make in the coming years. "

Written by Reach Out and Read - Communications at 10:22

The First Time You Read to Your Baby

A guest blog from Dr. Robert Needlman, Reach Out and Read co-founder and U.S. pediatrician. 

The first book that you read out loud to your baby could be War and Peace. That's because you can start even before your baby is born. Babies in the womb seem to enjoy the sound of their mother's voice, and prefer that voice after they emerge into the world. Your baby will not care what the words are. You can read anything, from trash to classics. I'd recommend Shakespeare, because of the beautiful sound those words make. Or William Butler Yeats or Langston Hughes, if you are more modern. Whatever your baby hears, that's what she will love to hear when it is spoken in your voice.


Once your baby is in your arms, she can enjoy looking at books as well as hearing them. Find books with simple, colorful pictures. Add lots of cuddles, tickles, and happy sound effects. The purpose is, always, to enjoy. There is a strong connection in the brain between enjoying and learning. When babies enjoy books together with their parents, they grow up loving books because some of the love they feel for their parents crosses over to those first books, and then books in general.



Sometime around 6 months, when your baby begins to reach skillfully for interesting objects, choose some books with fun things to feel.Pat the Bunnyis the classic, but there are many others that are not quite so 1950s. Children learn through all of their senses: sound, sight, touch, movement, even smell. Some of us still love the smell of a book!


The wonderful thing about young babies is that they are changing all the time. So, there are many first times! There is the first time that you read to your baby in the womb; the first time that you read to your baby in your arms; the first time that you read to your baby who can now reach and touch the book; the first time that you read to your baby who can "read" back to you, by pointing and making sounds. What makes reading aloud especially delightful to babies is the response they get from the people who love them and read to them. Find books that you love, and your baby will love them too. And don't worry: there is no special technique for reading to babies. If you follow your heart and let joy be your guide, you will do it perfectly every time.


We have closed our comments option due to SPAM, but we welcome your comments on our Facebook and Twitter platforms.

Written by Reach Out and Read - Communications at 10:27

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Reach Out and Read National Center
89 South St, Suite 201
Boston, MA 02111