NEWS  from
 Reach Out and Read
 Washington State

"Part of what makes paper a brilliant technology may be, in fact, that it offers us so much and no more. A small child cannot tap the duck and elicit a quack; for that, the child needs to turn to a parent."
--Perri Klass, MD
I just spotted a copy of JK Rowling's new book, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, by our kitchen table. I am sure my 19-year-old son, home for the summer after his first year of college, bought it. It made me smile. I remember the release of each of the seven original books. Several came out in July when we were traveling, but our son desperately wanted them as soon as possible so we bought one from a tiny bookstore in Truckee, California. Then there was the year we were touring the North Dakota capitol and we spotted the brand new Harry Potter book lying on the Governor's desk! My son read, and re-read, every book. When we tried to consolidate his belongings when he left for college, there was no question that the Harry Potter books were being kept! So I, and millions of parents, saw the power of a special series of books in a child's life. There is no question that these books deepened my son's love for reading, and that this helped him tremendously in school.

I urge you to read Dr. Perri Klass' New York Times column, " The Merits of Reading Real Books to Your Children". It provides the research, and the emotions, behind why those "real books" are so important, especially for very young children.

And in this Sunday's New York Times, " The Good News About Educational Inequality" emphasizes the role of parent-child reading at home in increasing equity in kindergarten readiness, specifically noting the role of Reach Out and Read.

Together these articles address two of the main functions that Reach Out and Read plays--putting real books into the hands of children, and helping large populations of low-income families understand just how important they are in their child's education.   This year 1,650 medical providers in 196 clinics across Washington will have over 200,000 Reach Out and Read well-child checkups with families, reaching more families than any other early learning program in the state. With a focus on equity, we prioritize clinics serving children living in low-income families, children of color, and families where English is not the home language. This strategy is working! We just need the investment to sustain and grow this network of doctors supporting families. Thanks for helping spread the word about the mighty impact and critical role of Reach Out and Read, so that together we can create an equitable Washington, where all children will be ready for kindergarten. 

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

Support Reach Out and Read in Washington

Children Need "Real Books"
Doctors are frequently asked about the merits of e-books, and when this question is asked about babies, many tend to wince. But it can be a hard topic to explain. Dr. Perri Klass' article, " The Merits of Reading Real Books to Your Children," is a great resource in this digital age. Dr. Klass highlights the huge relational component of parent-child reading when she reminds us, " But the most essential attribute of those board books, beyond their durability, is that they pull in the parent, not only to pick them up, but to ask and answer questions, name the pictures, make the animal noises.

Reach Out and Read   doctors put a brand new children's book into the  eager hands of each baby, toddler, and preschooler during  well-child checkups. At the same time, they encourage parents to read aloud every day, modeling for and teaching families how to promote literacy at home by reading together.

Photo credit: Oscar Bolton Green, in the New York Times

Kindergarten Readiness Gaps Improving

Sunday's New York Times piece, " The Good News About Educational Inequality ," provides signs of progress. Researchers reviewing longitudinal data from the past two decades were surprised to find that, " The enormous gap in academic performance between high- and low-income children has begun to narrow. Children entering kindergarten today are more equally prepared than they were in the late 1990s." The research further demonstrates that the gaps between races were improving too, with " both the white-black and white-Hispanic gaps narrowed by roughly 15 percent from 1998 to 2010."

The authors hypothesize that the gap is decreasing because of the " widespread diffusion of a single powerful idea: that the first few years of a child's life are the most consequential for cognitive development." Upper income families have known and acted on this knowledge for a longer period of time. But now low-income families are changing as well, and the authors suggest that efforts to teach parents how to support their child's learning, through programs like Reach Out and Read, may be partly responsible for the good news.

We still have a long way to go, and multiple different strategies are needed to truly close the gap. Making sure all young children have a language-rich environment where talking, singing, and reading together is part of what they experience every day, requires  large scale "public awareness" that effectively supports the families who need it most. By incorporating books and guidance into regular checkups with the doctor, Reach Out and Read meets families "where they are" with a program proven to help parents be their child's most important teachers.  
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.