Early Literacy Research Library (ELRL) - Article

The Pediatrician’s Role in Optimizing School Readiness

COUNCIL ON EARLY CHILDHOOD, COUNCIL ON SCHOOL HEALTH. (2016) The Pediatrician’s Role in Optimizing School Readiness. Pediatrics, 138(3), e20162293. ,

Access: FREE/Open Access

Publication year


study description

Policy statement.

core topic(s)

Pediatric Primary Care

Population Characteristics

Medical Providers

Exposures, Outcomes, Other

Brain/Neurocognitive , Language and Literacy Development , Provider Behaviors and Skills , School Readiness and Educational Outcomes


This policy statement addresses the role of the pediatrician in promoting school readiness.

outcomes evaluated

Topics Discussed: Components of school readiness; Early brain development and school readiness; Role of pediatrician in promoting school readiness (Physician wellbeing, Social-emotional wellbeing, Cognitive and language development); Recommendations for pediatricians; Recommendations for policy makers.




School readiness includes not only the early academic skills of children but also their physical health, language skills, social and emotional development, motivation to learn, creativity, and general knowledge. Families and communities play a critical role in ensuring children’s growth in all of these areas and thus their readiness for school. Schools must be prepared to teach all children when they reach the age of school entry, regardless of their degree of readiness. Research on early brain development emphasizes the effects of early experiences, relationships, and emotions on creating and reinforcing the neural connections that are the basis for learning. Pediatricians, by the nature of their relationships with families and children, may significantly influence school readiness. Pediatricians have a primary role in ensuring children’s physical health through the provision of preventive care, treatment of illness, screening for sensory deficits, and monitoring nutrition and growth. They can promote and monitor the social-emotional development of children by providing anticipatory guidance on development and behavior, by encouraging positive parenting practices, by modeling reciprocal and respectful communication with adults and children, by identifying and addressing psychosocial risk factors, and by providing community-based resources and referrals when warranted. Cognitive and language skills are fostered through timely identification of developmental problems and appropriate referrals for services, including early intervention and special education services; guidance regarding safe and stimulating early education and child care programs; and promotion of early literacy by encouraging language-rich activities such as reading together, telling stories, and playing games. Pediatricians are also well positioned to advocate not only for children’s access to health care but also for high-quality early childhood education and evidence-based family supports such as home visits, which help provide a foundation for optimal learning.


The concept of school readiness encompasses the entirety of a child’s physical, cognitive, and social-emotional attributes, which serve as the foundation for early brain development and learning. A team effort among families, the medical home, child care/early intervention, schools, and communities provides the experiences, relationships, and interactions that shape the learning process and serve as building blocks for later success in school and in life. Pediatricians, in their role as medical home providers, have the opportunity to substantially influence school readiness. Not only do pediatricians address physical health concerns, but they also are uniquely suited to address developmental and behavioral health concerns of the child and family and to promote healthy relationships and interactions that encourage future resilience. Beyond the influence that pediatricians have on individual families, they can lend their voices as advocates for appropriate mental health, early education, and child care; basic health care services; and safe, healthy living conditions for children and families.


Not discussed.