In late June 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) will publish its first clinical policy statement that highlights early literacy promotion as an 'essential' component of primary care visits. This statement represents the organization's first official policy recommendation for pediatricians to promote the importance of reading to children starting in infancy. It also encourages the distribution of developmentally, culturally, and linguistically appropriate books for all high-risk, low-income children through pediatricians' offices. This new policy statement is a significant advancement of early literacy promotion as AAP recommendations form the guidelines of pediatric practice across the country.
To promote the policy statement's recommendations, Too Small to Fail has facilitated a multifaceted partnership between the AAP, Reach Out and Read, and Scholastic. The AAP and Too Small to Fail commit to developing an online pediatric toolkit which will be used as part of pediatricians' patient outreach and communication about early language development. The kit will include a concrete set of tips and information (i.e. printable pamphlets, research information, posters, progress chart, etc.) for pediatricians to share with parents and caregivers of children age birth to five. Pediatrics-based early literacy programs have historically targeted parents when their babies are six months or older. In response to the AAP's new policy recommendations, the toolkit will be an innovative resource designed to help pediatricians promote the importance of talking, reading, and singing with children beginning at birth. The kit will be distributed to 62,000 AAP pediatricians nationwide and made available on the AAP's website.
As books are key to strong early literacy development, Scholastic, the largest publisher and distributor of children's books in the world, commits to donating 500,000 books to support pediatricians' outreach efforts.
Scholastic will donate the books to Reach Out and Read, an evidence-based program that promotes literacy to families through pediatricians and other medical professionals. Reach Out and Read will serve as a key delivery mechanism so that pediatricians can provide books to their youngest patients, particularly those in low-income, underserved communities. In addition to the books, Reach Out and Read will help expand the reach of the pediatric toolkit to their 5,000 sites across the country through email distribution, collaboration with its network of statewide coalitions, posting on the Reach Out and Read's electronic portal, and through various e-newsletters and provider bulletins.
Partners will work collaboratively to cross-promote the pediatric toolkit on their respective websites. Partners will also utilize social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to share information with their extensive followers of parents with young children.
July 2014 - September 2014
- Too Small to Fail and the AAP develop the pediatric toolkit
- Too Small to Fail and Reach Out and Read work with Scholastic to identify and curate a library of 500,000 books that are developmentally appropriate for infants and toddlers
- Too Small to Fail works with the AAP to launch the toolkit in two cities: Tulsa, OK and Oakland, CA, where Too Small to Fail has developed city-focused campaigns to promote talking, reading, and singing
October 2014 - December 2014
- Too Small to Fail and AAP launch the national rollout of the toolkit to AAP pediatricians and Reach Out and Read networks across the country
- Reach out and Read begins promoting the pediatric toolkit to their 5,000 sites across the country
January 2015 - May 2015
- Scholastic delivers first shipment of 250,000 books to Reach Out and Read in January 2015
- Reach Out and Read begins their first wave of book distribution
June 2015 - August 2015
- Scholastic delivers second shipment of 250,000 books to Reach Out and Read in June 2015
- Reach Out and Read begins their second wave of book distribution
September 2014-July 2015
- Partners will work collaboratively to cross-promote the pediatric toolkit on their respective websites and social media platforms
Numerous studies highlight the importance of talking, reading, and singing with children during the earliest years of life to boost brain development. In particular, reading aloud to children in infancy and the preschool years is one of the most effective ways to enrich early language and literacy skills that are essential for school readiness. Yet, the 2011-2012 National Survey of Children's Health found that only one third (34 percent) of young children living in poverty were read to daily compared to more than half (60 percent) of children from middle and upper income families. While research confirms that access to books is critical to a child's future success, children from low-income families have significantly fewer books than their more affluent peers. In middle-income communities, a child has access to an average of 13 books. In low-income areas, there is, on average, only one book for every 300 children. In addition, researchers have found that children in poverty hear 30 million fewer words than their higher-income peers, and acquire hundreds of words less by the age of three. These dramatic gaps result in significant learning disadvantages that persist into adulthood. Low reading skills in adults are associated with poor economic potential and with the perpetuation of poverty and poor health.
Pediatricians are a trusted source of information and often the first touch point for parents to receive guidance on their children's health and development. Numerous studies reveal the powerful effect of the pediatrician's role in promoting early literacy to parents, as well as in providing developmentally appropriate books during regular health visits. Families who have been reached through their pediatrician read together more frequently than families who have not; their children also enter kindergarten with larger vocabularies and stronger language skills. It is clear that pediatricians are essential in equipping parents with knowledge and tools to support their children's literacy and language development. Pediatricians' influential and unique role can and should be leveraged from the earliest days of a child's life.