‘Tis the Season of Giving

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Tuesday of this week was #GivingTuesday, a day set aside during the holiday season to promote giving in the days after Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  It seems that days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday take away from the idea of giving during the holidays; sure, not everyone buys items for themselves, but it seems that many people use the discount days to buy things that they want.

These past few months, I’ve been working with Reach Out and Read Illinois, a nonprofit affiliated with the Illinois Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics that promotes early literacy by distributing books to children during their well-child visits with their pediatricians.  The goal of the program sites is to provide literacy materials to young children who live in poorer areas, and who would not have access to these materials otherwise.

I wrote an article for the Illinois Pediatrician, a quarterly newsletter, this week which will be out this month.  I want to share it on here as well to reach readers who might not normally see this publication.  Obviously it is geared towards medical providers, so the language may not be as accessible, but I hope that you take the time to read it and check out Reach Out and Read Illinois in general.  It truly is a great program that I hope to continue working with after my internship ends.

For further information, visit the social media sites that I manage:

https://www.facebook.com/reachoutandreadillinois

https://twitter.com/ReachOutReadIL

http://www.pinterest.com/reachoutreadil/boards/

http://illinoisaap.org/reachoutandreadillinois/

We also have a holiday fundraiser coming up, for information or tickets you can go to:

http://www.eventbrite.com/e/jingle-and-mingle-for-reach-out-and-read-illinois-tickets-9280242455

Remember that the spirit of the season is about giving, so why not give back?

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“A Child’s Future in Your Hands”

By: Ali Bukowski

Growing research shows that the most formative developmental years for a child’s brain are before the age of three. Studies point to early childhood literacy as an important tool to enhancing early childhood development, and early childhood literacy has become a popular topic of conversation.  Whether the message comes from university researchers, newspapers and journalists, or the president himself, everyone seems to agree that early education and literacy is important and should be accessible to all.  In fact, on November 13th, President Obama’s initiative for Pre-K (for three and four-year-olds) available to all low and middle-income families took legislative form, proving to be an important step towards more literate youth.  The Illinois Chapter of the AmericanAcademy of Pediatrics (ICAAP) endorses early childhood literacy through the Reach Out and Read program.

Highlighting the positive impact of Reach Out And Read, Dr. Dipesh Navsaria, MPH, MSLIS, MD, Medical Director of Reach Out and Read Wisconsin, wrote an article which appeared in the Huffington Post on October 23rd of this year, titled “Read Every Day: A Healthy Prescription for Your Child”.  As a doctor and advocate for Reach Out and Read, Dr. Navsaria compares reading routinely with a child to a prescription, pointing out that prescribing reading every day may be “the single, most important prescription I hand you in your child’s early years”.  If a parent was told by a doctor that their child needed medication to be well, surely many would not think twice if the well-being of their child depended on this medicine.  This strong analogy really puts the importance of early literacy in a new perspective.

Dr. Navsaria contends that reading is so important that the outcome of a child’s life can be changed by reading every day.  “The first three to five years of life represent a critical window for learning, with rapid brain development that does not occur at any other time”, says Dr. Navsaria.  “By age 3, a child’s brain grows billions of cells and hundreds of trillions of connections, or synapses…everything a child soaks up during these years helps to set the stage for future learning; these years are truly the foundation on which the rest of life sits.”  Certainly this advice should not be taken lightly.   “New Research from Stanford Finds an Achievement Gap at 18 Months”, written by Alyssa Haywoode and published in Eye On Early Education, focuses on new research from Stanford University, which found that “toddlers from disadvantaged families are already several months behind more advantaged children in language proficiency” by 18 months of age.  The study’s author maintains that parents of children in any income level can close this gap by exposing children to language at an early age.  Anne Fernald, professor of psychology at Stanford and conductor of the study Haywoode focuses on, states that “toddlers learn new vocabulary from context, and the faster a child can get at the words she knows, the more able she is to attend to the next word in the sentence and to learn any new words that follow.”

By speaking to young children regularly, even if they can’t engage in conversation, you expose children to a broader vocabulary, and they become familiar with language more quickly.  The children that the Stanford study focused on were English and Spanish-learning toddlers evaluated for several years.  The study found that “children who are faster at recognizing familiar words at 18 months have larger vocabularies at age two years and score higher on standardized tests of language and cognition in kindergarten and elementary school.”  Clearly this study continues to show what a difference early literacy makes and how lasting the results are when children are literate early.

In September 2013, Katherine Sellgren, BBC News Education Reporter, published “Maths Advantage for Pupils Who Read for Pleasure”, which discussed a study conducted by London University’s Institute of Education.  The study examined the reading habits of 6,000 children and indicated that “reading for pleasure was more important to a child’s development than how educated their parents were.”  The study’s ultimate conclusion was that children who read more have a broader vocabulary, therefore making them more likely to understand more and excel in more educational disciplines.

In addition to the importance of early literacy for scholarly success, parents who practice reading regularly and create a literacy friendly home convey the message that reading is important at any age, and can be a family activity.  Nicholas D. Kristof, columnist for The New York Times, and author of the article “Do We Invest in Preschools or Prisons” promotes early literacy and hopes that literacy legislation moves forward in the near future.  “One problem is straightforward. Poorer kids are more likely to have a single teenage mom who is stressed out, who was herself raised in an authoritarian style that she mimics, and who, as a result, doesn’t chatter much with the child” states Kristof.  “Yet help these parents, and they do much better. Some of the most astonishing research in poverty-fighting methods comes from the success of programs to coach at-risk parents — and these, too, are part of Obama’s early education program.”  If it means changing the outcome of even a single child’s life, why not make early literacy a focus in pediatric offices?

Reach Out and Read is a program that primarily focuses literacy efforts in low-income areas by providing developmentally appropriate books for children at well-child visits with their pediatrician.   Reach Out and Read sponsors understand that circumstances such as income and low parental literacy rates can be factors in homes that are not literacy friendly.  By providing tutoring resources to parents wanting to improve their own literacy while introducing their children to reading, pediatricians can connect parents and children in an additional way.  Reading together creates conversations, which in turn creates more expansive vocabularies, which ultimately creates lasting positive results in children’s lives.

As pediatricians, you hold a very important key to early literacy: the ability to prescribe a book to a child.  The book you give a child can change the child’s life.  By partnering with Reach Out and Read, you can provide a family with resources that they may never have access to otherwise.  With one book, you can change the outcome of multiple lives.

For more information about Reach Out and Read Illinois, or if you are interested in partnering with Reach Out and Read Illinois, please contact:

Elise Groenewegen at egroenewegen@illinoisaap.com or by phone at 312-733-1026 ext. 204

Resources:

Dr. Navsaria, Huffington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-dipesh-navsaria-mph-mslis-md-/read-every-day-a-healthy-prescription-for-your-child_b_4143735.html

Eye On Early Education http://eyeonearlyeducation.com/2013/11/11/new-research-from-stanford-finds-an-achievement-gap-at-18-months/?blogsub=confirming#subscribe-blog

Katherine Sellgren, BBChttp://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-24046971
Nicholas Kristof, NY Timeshttp://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/27/opinion/sunday/kristof-do-we-invest-in-preschools-or-prisons.html?_r=4&adxnnl=1&smid=tw-share&adxnnlx=1382989022-njPOXPOVv+jJNHmFJyIwWA&

Ed Central http://www.edcentral.org/landmark-federal-state-pre-k-partnership-bills-emphasize-access-quality/

The Tennessean http://www.tennessean.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2013311140028&gcheck=1