Reach Out and Read in the New York Times

Published:  August 31, 2016

 

Dear Reach Out and Read supporter,

I am writing to draw your attention to an article that ran last Sunday in the New York Times Sunday Review section, which cited Reach Out and Read as part of an important—and encouraging—trend that is big news for children and parents in this country, and should help and encourage us all in the work we do. "The Good News About Educational Inequality," was authored by two professors of education and a professor of social work.  In this piece, they discuss the apparent paradox that the performance gap between high-income and low-income children has begun to shrink, even though the economic inequality is worsening.  In other words, they explain, "Children entering kindergarten today are more equally prepared than they were in the late 1990s."

This improvement, they argue, is directly related to the parenting practices which help low-income children:  "What has changed is that low-income children are now getting more of what the political scientist Robert Putnam calls “ ‘Goodnight Moon’ time” than they did in the 1990s. That’s excellent news."

They go on to raise the question of how this came about, in the setting of increasing income inequality, and here is what they say: "We suspect that in part this happened 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."  They point out that the achievement gap grew, in part, because of the ways that high-income parents "invested" in the cognitive development of their young children.  The article goes on:  "Why are low-income families now adopting these parenting practices? It may be partly a result of public information campaigns like Reach Out and Read...."  You can read the full article here. The authors are Sean F. Reardon, Jane Waldfogel, and Daphna Bassok.

As you know, we've been doing Reach Out and Read for 27 years now, and we've had a widespread network for almost two decades and continue to expand rapidly.  Reading this article will give you a sense of how experts in other fields are measuring some of the most important outcomes that we are trying to affect every day in our exam rooms.  It's wonderful to see evidence that the education gap is narrowing, even if the income gap is not—that low-income children are coming to school with better skills and a better chance.  And it's great to see the efforts and dedication of all those parents acknowledged as the key factor that we know it to be—that "Goodnight Moon" time which does so much for children in so many ways.

When the authors of this essay cite us as one of the key interventions in getting out the message to parents, it's a recognition of the time and effort that you have put in to build and support this network, and to help pediatric primary care providers deliver the message, the anticipatory guidance, the modeling, and the books to so many parents all around the United States, to help them do what they all want to do—give their children the best possible start.

As the authors say of Reach Out and Read and Too Small to Fail, “these campaigns represent an effort to ensure that our knowledge about the unique importance of early childhood helps everyone. Like a new medical innovation that is first adopted by the wealthy but then becomes commonplace, the emphasis on public and private investments in young children has helped turn a benefit for the rich into an equalizing force in society.”

We want to celebrate this news with you, our partners, and our supporters—above all, to celebrate what parents are doing for their children, and the ways that the children's skills are improving—though, as the article points out, there is still a long way to go, and educating parents needs to be part of larger initiatives to reduce inequalities and disparities. We are proud to be acknowledged as part of this good news, and eager to work with you and your networks—and through them with families and clinicians—to go on making things better.

Warmly,

Perri Klass, M.D.
National Medical Director
Reach Out and Read

 

Some content on this page is saved in alternate format. To view these files, download the following software.

Windows Media Player   Windows Media® Player for Windows, Flip4MAC for MAC OSX
Compressed ZIP Archive   WinZip® for downloading compressed files
Return to top of page
Return to top of page