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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. 

 

readabookday

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

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.


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Reach Out and Read National Center
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