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. Reardon, Jane Waldfogel, and Daphna Bassok.
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