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News, Events, and Updates from Reach Out and Read

How to Be Your Baby's First Teacher

Talk, Read and Sing to Your Baby from the Very First Day
Written by Dr. Amy Emerson, Pediatrician, Tulsa, Oklahoma at 15:05

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.

Doctors Tell Us that Reach Out and Read Makes a Big Difference

We know that Reach Out and Read is an effective early literacy intervention from our extensive evidence base. Since its foundation, the Reach Out and Read model has been studied by a variety of academic investigators, providing an extensive body of peer-reviewed research on the effects of the program.  This shows that parents served by Reach Out and Read are up to four times more likely to read aloud to their children. Also, children served by Reach Out and Read score three to six months ahead of their non-Reach Out and Read peers on pre-school vocabulary tests.

Doctors Tell Us that Reach Out and Read Makes a Big Difference This analytical approach is compelling, but we also hear about how Reach Out and Read affects children's lives from the stories that our medical providers tell us. At the cutting edge of the program, they are able to put a human face on the Reach Out and Read story.

They see how excited infants and toddlers are to receive new books, especially in the low-income communities that Reach Out and Read often serves….

"I still am surprised when a family responds with "We don't have any books"! It is wonderful to see the smiles on the child's face when they take home their very own book!"

"The parents and children look forward to receiving books at their checkups. The children are eager to read out loud and look at the pictures. Sometimes this is the first and only time a child will receive a book."

"One little patient of mine had parents in the Military, who were going to be relocated across the country. His Mother told me that he was allowed to take one suitcase of "important things" - the rest would arrive in a week or two. He filled up half of his suitcase with his Reach Out and Read books!"

…How their guidance encourages parents to read to their children frequently……

 "We had given a book to a 6-month-old infant during the checkup. Mom said they did not have books at home. We talked about the importance of early literacy and a language-rich environment to help develop vocabulary and how it all affects brain development. Mom was very interested in what we talked about. But, when she noticed how intrigued baby was with the book, that was when she smiled and said "Maybe we need to get a couple more books because it seems that he likes them!""

…And, most importantly, how families reading together supports the healthy development of children in their care….

"Jayden was a 2-year-old when I first saw him. He was completely attached to his mom, made no eye contact, and spoke absolutely no words other than "mama" and "dada".  His mother was from a low-income background, going through a divorce, and said she could not afford evaluation or speech therapy. I spent about 30 minutes explaining the importance of reading aloud and having fun together. Slowly but surely Jayden showed progress, and at his last visit he came running to me, hugged me and said "Thank you Dr. K--" in a cute but intelligible way. I could understand close to 50% of all that he said, thanks to the Reach Out and Read books that I kept giving him every visit. Yes, books do make a difference, a big difference."

 

Written by Nikki Shearman at 10:45

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Reach Out and Read National Center
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