A study published in the journal Pediatrics shows that combining two spring programs over a three-year period had positive effects on preschoolers entering kindergarten in Cincinnati Public Schools.
The two spring programs are: Reach Out and Read, which gives children from newborn to 5 years of age a new book and instructions on how to read at home while they are well attended; and Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, which sends new books to the child’s home once a month from birth through the age of 5. Each of these are well established at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and across the country.
“With this early study, we propose that these two programs, when combined and continued, have the potential to be effective in supporting the development of reading skills in large populations of at-risk children, improving kindergarten readiness and, ultimately, success in school and life. “” Said Greg Szumlas, MD, of the Department of General and Community Pediatrics at Cincinnati Children’s.
“I cannot emphasize enough to parents the importance of reading with their child from birth,” added Szumlas. “Just a few minutes a day, reading aloud, and interacting with your child over books can make a huge difference in preparing for and preparing for kindergarten.”
Cincinnati Children’s initiated the unique combination of the two programs in July 2015, involving 23 health clinics across the city and with funding from Every Child Capital. The researchers analyzed the results of the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment (KRA), a standardized state test for all children entering a public school kindergarten, from program participants over a period of three school years – 2016-2017, 2017-2018, and 2018-2019 .
Over 3,200 children participated in the combined program during the three year period. For a sample of participants, the values of the kindergarten readiness were analyzed and compared with the average of the school district. The results showed an increase of 15.4 percentage points between the 2016-2017 school year and the 2018-2019 school year for students participating in the program, while the school district average increased only 3.8 percent over the same period.
“Although the percentages for the entire district were higher than those of our program participants, the percentage point increase over this three-year period represents significant progress and improvement,” said Szumlas. “This early study suggests that pediatric health care providers are able to influence literacy development in children well before school entry and that literacy training should be viewed as a routine part of primary care.”
Lisha Lungelow, a Cincinnati child social worker at the Pediatric Primary Care Clinic, enrolled her son Jordan in the Reach Out and Read / Imagination Library program in 2016 at the age of 13 months when he was 13 months old.
“When he came to me, he didn’t really have much to do with books,” said Lungelow. “Reading was a way for us to connect and connect. He loved getting the books in the mail and seeing his name on them. “
When Jordan started kindergarten last year, Lungelow believed he was ready and credits his exposure to books through the combination program.
“When he was in kindergarten, I got us a book to read,” said Lungelow. “Jordan took it from me and read the book to me. I can’t even explain the joy that gave me. It was really great.”
Cincinnati Children’s and more than 20 health centers in the greater Cincinnati area continue to enroll children in the Reach Out and Read and Imagination Library. In March 2020, the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library, in partnership with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, expanded to include every child from birth to 5 years of age in Ohio through online enrollment.
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