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News, Events, and Updates from Reach Out and Read

American Academy of Pediatrics Honors Dr. Perri Klass

Reach Out and Read National Medical Director, Dr Perri Klass, was honored for her "amazing impact on early childhood development" at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference in San Francisco last week.

perri awardDr. Benard Dreyer, President of the American Academy of Pediatrics, presented the Arnold P Gold Foundation Humanism and Medicine Award, which recognizes "an exceptional pediatrician, who not only demonstrates clinical expertise but the humanistic qualities of integrity, compassion, altruism, respect and service."  Dr. Klass was selected for this award by the Council on Communications and Media Pediatrics for the 21st Century planning group for her dedication to her profession and the health of children and the impact that she has made through her writing, service as an educator, and leadership in promoting early literacy through Reach Out and Read.perri1

Dr. Klass is Professor of Journalism and Pediatrics at New York University, where she is also Director of the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. She is also well known as an author of several books and for parenting advice in her column, "The Checkup," in the New York Times. "Dr. Klass is a great clinician," said Dr. Dreyer "…. But she is most famous for being one of the originators of the Reach Out and Read program that so many of us [pediatricians] know is one of the major evidence-based programs in primary care. . . . she is now the National Medical Director, really spearheading the spread and the support and the quality improvement of Reach Out and Read."

 

 

perri2In receiving her award, Dr. Klass spoke around the theme of "What the doctor sees, is what the writer knows - we live in a world full of stories" and talked about how, through Reach Out and Read, pediatricians have worked together to change and enlarge the practice of pediatrics. "When we give these books to our young patients, when we encourage parents to read with them and trust in the power of that time together, the power of that interaction, that back and forth,…we can help children find their voices, write their own stories and that can change the world."

Reach Out and Read is proud to have Dr. Klass as our National Medical Director, and congratulates her on receiving this prestigious award from her peers and colleagues.

You can watch the full presentation of the award on YouTube.

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

Congress Recognizes the Importance of Pediatric Early Literacy Programs

ESSA AnnouncementWe're thrilled at the overwhelming bipartisan support for a bill that recognizes the importance of pediatric early literacy promotion. President Obama has just signed into law the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, titled the Every Student Succeeds Act (S. 1177), that seeks to ensure the provision of a quality education for all children.

Significantly, this bill authorizes the Reach Out and Read model in federal education policy for the first time. In signing the bill, President Obama talked about expanding access to early childhood education as one of its three aims. Increasingly, research shows that the foundation children need to succeed in school and beyond is built in the early years, from infancy. We are pleased that Reach Out and Read has been recognized as a leader in the field of early learning, and that our model, reaching families with young children through pediatric care, is recognized in this important legislation.

Inclusion of pediatric early literacy promotion in this act is fully consistent with the American Academy of Pediatrics' policy statement, published in 2014, recommending that pediatricians incorporate book promotion and literacy guidance as an essential element of pediatrics starting in infancy.

We have received amazing, bipartisan support on our journey to this point:  we are grateful to U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who have tirelessly supported early literacy services for children, and have been the leading advocates in the Senate for Reach Out and Read for over 15 years; to U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern (D- MA-02), who has championed Reach Out and Read in the House for well over a decade; and to Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Representative Katherine Clark (D-MA-05), who were instrumental in ensuring support for pediatric early literacy intervention in the Every Student Succeeds Act in their roles on the education committees.

"Literacy is the foundation for learning. Developing and building these skills begins at home, with parents as the first teachers…..This initiative empowers parents to help their kids, and provides them with free books to get started." 

--Senator Jack Reed.

We believe that this act will bring us closer to our vision of a day when all children will know what it's like to explore a book in the arms of someone who loves them!

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Reach Out and Read Improves Family and Child Health Outcomes through Primary Care

New article "The Elephant in the Clinic" examines the multifaceted role of Reach Out and Read in the promotion of early literacy and family well-being through primary healthcare.
Written by Nikki Shearman at 12:05

Closing the Achievement Gap Requires Interventions that Target Children from the Earliest Years

With the author's permission, this article is an adaptation of a letter to the editor of Pediatrics by Reach Out and Read Co-Founder Dr. Robert Needlman M.D., F.A.A.P. following the publication of the report Positive Parenting Practices, Health Disparities, and Developmental Progress

Reading aloud statistics

A new study published inPediatrics last month provides further evidence that economic disadvantage is associated with fewer stimulating early childhood experiences and increased risk of developmental delays. Working with data from 12,642 children 4 to 36 months of age, Shah and colleagues analyzed interactive parent practices, such as reading aloud, talking and playing, and showed that "less participation in interactive activities is associated with increased risk of development delay among those experiencing significant adversity."

This report confirms and builds on the message of the landmark Hart & Risley study, published 20 years ago that studied a total of 42 children intensely over 30 months, recording at intervals every word that was said to them, and every word they said in turn. These scientists found that by the age of four, children from lower-income families hear 30 million fewer words than their more affluent peers.

That these two disparate approaches reached the same conclusion is reassuring. That the underlying reality has remained unchanged for 20 years, that is, the propagation of social and developmental disadvantage, is not.

What has changed is the response to the problem. Both studies conclude that the achievement gap starts in infancy, and is already established by the age of four. Closing the achievement gap, therefore, depends on interventions that target children from the earliest days. Shah and colleagues go further to suggest that pediatricians have a vital role to play in delivering programs that strengthen parenting practices for the very young. "The advantages are that the primary care setting is established, non-stigmatizing, accessible locally, and has the potential to disseminate parenting interventions."

Reading aloud 2There are now many programs, both local and national, that seek to influence early childhood development, and several that operate through the primary care setting. Of the latter, Reach Out and Read is a well-established and successful non-profit organization - implemented in every state, in more than 5,500 clinics, and in virtually every pediatric training program. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics, that recommends "pediatric providers promote early literacy development" references Reach Out and Read as an effective intervention to engage parents and prepare children to achieve their potential.

Reach Out and Read was developed some 26 years ago and uses a simple time-honored model in which medical providers give books to children at each of their well-child checkups and encourage their parents to read aloud to them. It is supported by a large body of published research showing that the children we serve are read to more often by their parents, have improved language skills and a greater love of reading. Reach Out and Read now serves over 4.5 million children annually, including one in five disadvantaged children. We still have a long way to go, and we plan to continue to grow and reach more families and children across the nation, but as we contemplate how far we have yet to go in our efforts to combat social disadvantage, it's important to keep in mind how far we have come.

Bedtime Stories for Young Brains

NY Times article

Ed. Note: This guest article, written by Perri Klass, M.D., was originally posted in the New York Times on August 17, 2015. The original article can be viewed here.

A little more than a year ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement saying that all pediatric primary care should include literacy promotion, starting at birth.

That means pediatricians taking care of infants and toddlers should routinely be advising parents about how important it is to read to even very young children. The policy statement, which I wrote with Dr. Pamela C. High, included a review of the extensive research on the links between growing up with books and reading aloud, and later language development and school success.

But while we know that reading to a young child is associated with good outcomes, there is only limited understanding of what the mechanism might be. Two new studies examine the unexpectedly complex interactions that happen when you put a small child on your lap and open a picture book.

This month, the journal Pediatrics published a study that used functional magnetic resonance imaging to study brain activity in 3-to 5-year-old children as they listened to age-appropriate stories. The researchers found differences in brain activation according to how much the children had been read to at home.

Children whose parents reported more reading at home and more books in the home showed significantly greater activation of brain areas in a region of the left hemisphere called the parietal-temporal-occipital association cortex. This brain area is "a watershed region, all about multisensory integration, integrating sound and then visual stimulation," said the lead author, Dr. John S. Hutton, a clinical research fellow at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.

This region of the brain is known to be very active when older children read to themselves, but Dr. Hutton notes that it also lights up when younger children are hearing stories. What was especially novel was that children who were exposed to more books and home reading showed significantly more activity in the areas of the brain that process visual association, even though the child was in the scanner just listening to a story and could not see any pictures.

"When kids are hearing stories, they're imagining in their mind's eye when they hear the story," said Dr. Hutton. "For example, 'The frog jumped over the log.' I've seen a frog before, I've seen a log before, what does that look like?"

The different levels of brain activation, he said, suggest that children who have more practice in developing those visual images, as they look at picture books and listen to stories, may develop skills that will help them make images and stories out of words later on.

"It helps them understand what things look like, and may help them transition to books without pictures," he said. "It will help them later be better readers because they've developed that part of the brain that helps them see what is going on in the story."

Dr. Hutton speculated that the book may also be stimulating creativity in a way that cartoons and other screen-related entertainments may not.

"When we show them a video of a story, do we short circuit that process a little?" he asked. "Are we taking that job away from them? They're not having to imagine the story; it's just being fed to them."

We know that it is important that young children hear language, and that they need to hear it from people, not from screens. Unfortunately, there are serious disparities in how much language children hear - most famously demonstrated in a Kansas study that found poor children heard millions fewer words by age 3.

But it turns out that reading to - and with - young children may amplify the language they hear more than just talking. In August,Psychological Science reported on researchers who studied the language content of picture books. They put together a selection from teacher recommendations, Amazon best sellers, and other books that parents are likely to be reading at bedtime.

In comparing the language in books to the language used by parents talking to their children, the researchers found that the picture books contained more "unique word types."

"Books contain a more diverse set of words than child-directed speech," said the lead author, Jessica Montag, an assistant research psychologist at the University of California, Riverside. "This would suggest that children who are being read to by caregivers are hearing vocabulary words that kids who are not being read to are probably not hearing."

So reading picture books with young children may mean that they hear more words, while at the same time, their brains practice creating the images associated with those words - and with the more complex sentences and rhymes that make up even simple stories.

I have spent a great deal of my career working with Reach Out and Read, which works through medical providers to encourage parents to enjoy books with their infants, toddlers and preschoolers. This year, our 5,600 program sites will give away 6.8 million books (including many to children in poverty), along with guidance to more than 4.5 million children and their parents. (The group also provided some support to Dr. Hutton's research.)

Studies of Reach Out and Read show that participating parents read more and children's preschool vocabularies improve when parents read more. But even as someone who is already one of the choir, I am fascinated by the ways that new research is teasing out the complexity and the underlying mechanisms of something which can seem easy, natural and, well, simple. When we bring books and reading into checkups, we help parents interact with their children and help children learn.

"I think that we've learned that early reading is more than just a nice thing to do with kids," Dr. Hutton said. "It really does have a very important role to play in building brain networks that will serve children long-term as they transition from verbal to reading."

And as every parent who has read a bedtime story knows, this is all happening in the context of face-time, of skin-to-skin contact, of the hard-to-quantify but essential mix of security and comfort and ritual. It's what makes toddlers demand the same story over and over again, and it's the reason parents tear up (especially those of us with adult children) when we occasionally happen across a long-ago bedtime book.

 

Written by Perri Klass at 10:35

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