Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton discussed the role that pediatricians and parents can play in promoting young children’s early learning during her remarks on Sunday Oct. 12 at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference & Exhibition in San Diego.
Secretary Clinton announced the launch of the Academy’s updated early literacy toolkit for pediatricians and parents, Books Build Connections, which will be shared with its 62,000 pediatrician members immediately following Secretary Clinton’s remarks.
In June 2014, the AAP announced a collaborative partnership with Too Small to Fail, a joint initiative of the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation and Next Generation. The organizations have committed to promote early literacy and ensure that doctors, parents and caregivers have the information, tools and books they need to promote talking, reading out loud and singing to children every day starting in infancy.
“Secretary Clinton’s work leading Too Small to Fail and its evolving partnership with pediatricians and parents on early childhood education and literacy reflects the Academy’s national priorities,” said James M. Perrin, MD, FAAP, president of the AAP. “Fewer than half of children younger than 5 years old are read to daily in our country. For 25 years, programs such as Reach Out and Read have been promoting literacy in exam rooms nationwide, and now, even more pediatricians are taking a stand to spread the news more widely through our recent policy, toolkit and partnership with Too Small to Fail. Talking, reading and singing with young children is a joyful way to build strong and healthy parent-child relationships, foster early language skills and promote children’s development.”
The Books Build Connections toolkit, available online at www.aap.org/literacy, incorporates new recommendations on early literacy issued by the AAP in June. In that policy statement, the AAP emphasized literacy — beginning from an infant’s very first days — as an “essential” component of primary care visits. As part of the partnership with Too Small to Fail and AAP, Scholastic, Inc. agreed to donate 500,000 new, age-appropriate children’s books for distribution through Reach Out and Read, which works with 20,000 medical providers nationwide to promote early reading and give books to 4 million children and their families annually at pediatric visits.
“Our partnership with the American Academy of Pediatrics is squarely aligned with our effort to close the ‘word gap’ in America,” said Ann O’Leary, vice president and director of Too Small to Fail at Next Generation. “The word gap refers to the disparity in words that children hear and learn from birth to age 4. Children from higher-income families hear up to 30 million more words than children from lower-income families where talking, reading and singing is not as prevalent. This pediatric toolkit aims to address this issue head on by ensuring that pediatricians can easily explain to parents the importance of these activities in helping grow their babies’ brains and vocabularies.”
The toolkit provides updated, practical resources for pediatric professionals, as well as guidance for families on the importance of talking, reading, and singing with their children to promote early learning. The toolkit includes 12 tip sheets, parent handouts and other publications in easy-to-use, mobile-friendly formats to help pediatricians promote early literacy. Resources include:
• 16 concrete ways pediatric health professionals can promote early literacy in their practice and community;
• Background for pediatric professionals on the science of early literacy;
• Parent-friendly tips on sharing books with children at specific ages and stages of development, from birth through age 10;
• Advice for parents on “the secret to a smarter baby”;
• Recommendations on choosing books for children based on age and topic, including specific titles;
• Tips from doctors on reading with very young children, including the 5 Rs of early education.
“Pediatricians want all parents and caregivers to know that by making special one-on-one time every day to read, talk and play with their young children, they are promoting their child’s early learning. This kind of treasured experience actually creates new connections in their child’s brain that promote language development and secure the bond between parent and child,” said Pamela High, MD, FAAP, lead author of the AAP’s early literacy policy statement, who spoke before Secretary Clinton on Sunday. “By creating the Books Build Connections toolkit, the AAP and Too Small to Fail, in collaboration with Reach Out and Read, are getting the word out to families that early experiences really matter.”
An anticipated 8,500 pediatricians gathered for the AAP annual meeting Oct. 11-14 at the San Diego Convention Center to learn about the latest developments in children’s health.