Panelist from left to right, Dipesh Navsaria, MD, MPH, MSLIS, Catherine Wiley, MD, FAAP, and Cynthia Roque, MD (contributed photo)
Hartford, CT - A panel of pediatricians and literacy experts convened last week for a policy briefing in the Legislative Office Building to discuss critical literacy interventions for children from birth.
Legislators, foundations, and early education officials attended the briefing, which was hosted by Reach Out and Read, the national nonprofit organization that promotes early literacy and school readiness by giving new books to children and advice to parents about the importance of reading aloud at regular pediatric checkups, and the Connecticut General Assembly’s Committees on Children, Education and Public Health. These committees have long championed early literacy interventions and parental engagement efforts.
The panelists discussed brain development, literacy and language acquisition, parental engagement, children in poverty, and the importance of a child’s first 1,000 days. Reach Out and Read is working within the pediatric primary care system to promote the vital role parents play in their child’s developing literacy skills, school readiness, and social and emotional development.
“We know that the first 1,000 days are the most important in a child’s brain development and growth,” said panelist Catherine Wiley, MD, FAAP, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Chief, Division of General Pediatrics, University of Connecticut School of Medicine, and Medical Director of Reach Out and Read Connecticut. “During the early years, children acquire the foundational language and communication skills that will help them succeed during the rest of their lives. As Reach Out and Read providers, we encourage parents to learn how to develop these skills in their children through reading aloud. Engaged parents are critical to ensuring that children grow up with rich language exposure, familiarity with books and stories, and highly developed brain functions.”
Other panelists included Dipesh Navsaria, MD, MPH, MSLIS, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine, and Medical Director of Reach Out and Read Wisconsin; and Cynthia Roque, MD, Pediatric Associates of Connecticut, P.C., Waterbury and Reach Out and Read Connecticut Advisory Board Member.
The briefing was aimed at increasing awareness around the importance of investing in early education, which has better outcomes and lower costs than remedial programs in later grades for children who have fallen behind their peers.
“We know that every dollar invested in quality early childhood education produces a 7-10 percent annual return on investment,” said Christine Garber, Connecticut Executive Director for Reach Out and Read. “In light of this, we hope to secure a renewed commitment from the state to support smart investments in early education, so that every child in Connecticut has the opportunity to succeed.”
Christine Garber, Connecticut Executive Director, Reach Out and Read (contributed photo)
Reach Out and Read’s model includes providing a new, age-appropriate book for each child to take home at every checkup from 6 months through 5 years. Along with the free book for every child, doctors and nurses provide guidance to parents about the importance of reading aloud with their children every day.
Nationwide, Reach Out and Read doctors and nurses serve 4 million children and their families annually at 5,000 pediatric practices, hospitals, clinics, and health centers in all 50 states, with a focus on centers that
serve low-income communities. In Connecticut, over 400 medical providers serve more than 40,000 children and families through 70 clinical locations.
Reach Out and Read is supported by 15 peer-reviewed studies that show that Reach Out and Read has a positive effect on families’ attitudes and behaviors around reading. Families served by Reach Out and Read read together more often, and their children enter kindergarten better prepared to succeed, with larger vocabularies and stronger language skills. The Reach Out and Read model is endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the program has one of the strongest records of research support of any primary care intervention. Reach Out and Read is also the 2013 Winner of The Library of Congress David M. Rubenstein Prize for their groundbreaking work advancing literacy.
During the preschool years, children served by Reach Out and Read score three to six months ahead of their non-Reach Out and Read peers on vocabulary tests, preparing them to start school on target.