Promoting Early Literacy in Delaware

By Vibha Sanwal, MD
8/3/2021 Sussex County Health Coalition.

The Delaware Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics (DEAAP) is a professional association of pediatricians committed to promoting optimal physical, mental and social health and well-being for all infants, children, adolescents and young adults in Delaware. In support of its mission, the DEAAP recently established an Early Literacy Committee (ELC) tasked with the goal of engaging and supporting Delaware primary care pediatricians to promote early literacy from birth to five years. The DEAAP ELC’s efforts are guided by its vision that “beginning at birth, every Delaware child is read to every day.”

To achieve this vision, the DEAAP Early Literacy Committee has committed to assisting community pediatric practices to implement the evidence-based, national  pediatric literacy program, Reach Out and Read (ROR).

Reach Out and Read’s mission is to give young children a foundation for success by incorporating books into pediatric care and encouraging families to read aloud together. Utilizing the ROR model of early childhood literacy promotion, primary care clinicians, as part of routine well-visits for young children, provide anticipatory guidance, developmentally-appropriate books and a literacy-rich environment to educate families on the critical importance of reading aloud. This evidence-based  intervention model is considered the standard of care as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and follows Bright Futures health supervision guidelines. The ROR program addresses important social determinants of health and provides primary care clinicians the opportunity to observe fisthand fine and gross motor, cognitive, language, literacy, relational and social-emotional development. Research shows that participation in Reach Out and Read is associated with significant and positive changes in a child’s literacy environment and development that result in improved language scores.

DEAAP Early Literacy Committee has partnered with the Sussex County Health Coalition (SCHC) and the Sussex Early Childhood Council (SECC) joint team of early childhood professionals comprised of programs, partners, and individuals in the community dedicated to making a difference in the lives of children and families. DEAAP ELC, SCHC and SECC seek to promote early language and literacy development in children beginning in infancy to meet the shared goal of improving school readiness for all Delaware children. These efforts are in-line with the mission of the DEAAP and its Early Literacy Committee.

To further its shared goals DEAAP Early Literacy Committee, Sussex County Health Coalition and the Sussex Early Childhood Council have come together to support the implementation of the Reach Out and Read program at Rainbow Pediatrics in Sussex County, Delaware. This collaborative effort addresses the goals and objectives of the Early Child Comprehensive Systems (ECCS) impact grant which builds and implements comprehensive systems of care to support initiatives that promote positive early development and school success for young children.

Rainbow Pediatrics is very excited about this opportunity for their patients and their practice:

“We are really very thankful for the funds to provide books for our patients at Rainbow Pediatrics. Our patients are so happy when we give them the books and we find every single patient, even as young as 15 months, flipping pages of the books while waiting for the provider.

Due to the pandemic kids are forced to spend more time online with online learning and parents are really appreciative when we give them books and encourage them to read story books. We believe that reading and, more essentially, access to good books is vital to every child’s emotional, social and intellectual development. Many  critical pathways are formed in a child’s brain as they are growing. Reading strengthens these connections!”

Megan Hayes, DE American Academy of Pediatrics, Executive Director