NEWS  from
 Reach Out and Read
 Washington State
" 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."
--The American Academy of Pediatrics

Just as children across the country are settled into the new school year, I am delighted to share with you the release of The Pediatrician's Role in Optimizing School Readiness, a new policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics. As a pediatrician who's been working almost exclusively in early learning for more than a decade, it is exciting to see the progression of pediatricians' understanding of school readiness, evolving alongside that of so many of our colleagues and partners.

" 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," says the AAP. " Families and communities play a critical role in ensuring children's growth in all of these areas and thus their readiness for school."

This statement encompasses a lot of information, including two of the concepts that I think are most critical to our collective efforts to assure that all children are ready for school. The first, that a child's school readiness is multifaceted--it requires a "whole child" approach. And second, that school readiness is about three things: children are ready for school; schools are ready for children; and families and communities are able to provide the supports and services that contribute to school readiness (as defined decades ago by the National Education Goals Panel).

Washington State has recognized both of these foundational concepts since before the creation of Thrive Washington and the Department of Early Learning in 2006. But given the complexity of early childhood systems and services, and the historical lack of significant investment in young children, it is easy to focus heavily on one or two areas, and forget the importance of the whole. This statement helps us see that big picture, while describing the critical role that children's doctors and the health care system can play as partners in supporting young children and families. Read on for some key recommendations, and when you have a few minutes, I'd encourage you to read the full statement.

And finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't simultaneously note how Reach Out and Read is highlighted by the AAP. " Pediatricians can promote early language development and literacy by encouraging parents to read and spend time with their children every day if possible and by participating in programs such as Reach Out and Read."

Thank you for all you to do to help young children get a great start in life.

 Jill Sells, MD & the Reach Out and Read Washington Team

Support Reach Out and Read in Washington

Doctors Play a Key Role in School Readiness
The September issue of the journal Pediatrics features a new policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics: The Pediatrician's Role in Optimizing School Readiness. The statement highlights the primary importance of families, and the fundamental ways doctors can support parents. "Children's caregivers are their first teachers, and pediatricians can help families provide a safe, stable, nurturing and stimulating learning environment," said co-author P. Gail Williams, M.D.

Jointly released by the AAP's Council on Early Childhood and the Council on School Health, the policy demonstrates the Academy's understanding of the critical importance of the earliest years of life, and the continuum from birth into elementary school. 

The policy includes the following recommendations for pediatricians:
  • Optimize children's physical well-being using Bright Futures guidelines.
  • Promote social-emotional well-being though partnerships with the family, addressing behavior concerns, mitigating risks for toxic stress and facilitating access to mental health services when needed.
  • Discuss with families the need for optimal learning environments and plentiful reading materials to spur cognitive and language development.
  • Promote the 5 Rs - reading, rhyming, routines, rewards and relationships.
  • Identify children at risk of developmental difficulties and make timely referrals.
  • Connect low-income children to early education programs.
  • Advocate for services to support children's growth and development.
About Reach Out and Read Washington State

Reach Out and Read gives young children a foundation for success by incorporating books into pediatric care and encouraging families to read aloud together.  Our evidence- based proven program leverages the influence of children's doctors and makes literacy promotion  a standard part of well-child checkups from birth through 5 years. Reach Out and Read  supports parents as their child's first teacher and helps children be ready for  kindergarten. 
Through 196 programs in 31 counties, 1,650 medical providers serve an estimated  100,000 children and their families across Washington. Reach Out and Read
Washington State is part of Reach Out and Read, Inc., a national not-for  profit 501(c)3  organization.