For Immediate Release - July 24, 2014

Early Education Teams Up with Community Health Center to Help Close the Word Gap by Promoting Early Literacy

LYNN -- Today Early Education and Care Commissioner Tom Weber joined officials from Reach Out and Read Massachusetts and the Lynn Community Health Center in support of their work to advance children’s and families’ literacy development.  Ensuring that all children are reading proficiently by third grade is a top education priority for the Patrick Administration, and a key strategy for achieving this goal is providing access to high-quality early education opportunities across the Commonwealth.

The Lynn Community Health Center is a participating site for Reach Out and Read, a national initiative that integrates parent education about children's literacy development and books for children into pediatric primary care.  The center has been partnering with Reach Out and Read Massachusetts to provide books for children and literacy guidance for their families since 1996.  Commissioner Weber spoke to families at the Center's WIC site about how reading with children helps to build their literacy skills and strengthen their ability to learn.  He also served as a guest reader for Reach Out and Read’s story time and then met with pediatric staff at the Lynn Community Health Center's main site to learn more about how they implement the Reach Out and Read model to incorporate literacy promotion into well-child checkups. 

"Parents can build their child's brain and vocabulary through word-rich interactions, especially by singing and reading with them," said Commissioner Tom Weber.  "It is never too early for parents to share brain building moments with their child. Exploring new words, building literacy skills, and fostering a love of reading establish the foundation for a child's success in school and life."

“Reach Out and Read is a vital part of our pediatric practice,” said Dr. Eileen Fisk, Lynn Community Health Center Pediatric Team Leader.  “Reading aloud is one of the most important things we can do to prepare children to learn when they get to school.  It is also a way for parents and children to bond together.  Our families lead stressful lives.  I encourage them to use daily reading 'snuggle time' as a way to slow down.  Our families love this program, and now expect books and reading to be a part of every visit.  Reach Out and Read makes it easy to incorporate literacy into our practice.  I can’t imagine a check up without Reach Out and Read, and I don’t think our families could either.”  

“We are thrilled to host Commissioner Weber at Lynn Community Health Center’s Reach Out and Read program, especially in light of the recent AAP guidelines indicating that literacy promotion should be an essential component of pediatrics, ” said Alison Corning Clarke, Reach Out and Read’s Massachusetts Program Director. “Reach Out and Read is grateful for the ongoing support of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and looks forward to collaborating on the statewide Brain Building in Progress initiative to ensure that all children in Massachusetts grow up with a love of books, parents who read, talk, and sing to them, and a strong foundation for the future.”

Recent research found literacy gaps in children from lower income homes as early as at 18 months of age, and indicated that parents can prevent word gaps from forming by engaging in interactive dialogue with their children to build their vocabulary.  In addition, the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued a new policy statement that all pediatricians should advise parents to read to their children starting at birth.  The Reach Out and Read Massachusetts program at the Lynn Community Health Center educates parents on the importance of talking and reading with children to boost early brain development and learning. 

The story time at the Lynn Community Health Center today was lead by student volunteer Alex Ricciardelli who is a longstanding student volunteer in their Reach Out and Read program.  Alex is donating the proceeds from his book, "A Small Tale: The Adventures of Melvin" to the Lynn Community Health Center.

The Department of Early Education and Care and Reach Out and Read Massachusetts provided materials that promote brain building and literacy skill development to the families and children at the story time, including books, learning guides and "brain building tips" for parents for adult caregivers, and activity booklets for young children.

Earlier this year, Governor Patrick kicked off a "Read, Explore, Learn More!" educational series to highlight the important role of community-based educational programs in informal settings such as the Reach Out and Read program at the Lynn Community Health Center.  Informal community-based educational programs are uniquely situated to support both children and parents simultaneously by modeling approaches that support children's learning such as facilitating topic-rich conversations after a story reading.  Reach Out and Read Massachusetts receives state funding through the Department of Early Education and Care for literacy supports such as book distribution at participating program sites.  Additional state-funded informal early education initiatives include the Coordinated Family and Community Engagement networks, Early Childhood Resource Centers at children's libraries.

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About the Lynn Community Health Center

This mission of Lynn Community Health Center is to provide comprehensive, quality health care for everyone, regardless of ability to pay.  Since our beginnings as a tiny storefront in 1971, the health center has experienced exponential growth and is now the largest provider of primary health care and behavioral health services in Lynn. Last year, the health center provided 241,512 medical, behavioral health, and dental visits to 38,305 patients – more than 40% of Lynn residents and more than 40% of all Lynn children 19 and under.  We have three locations in the City and nine school-based health centers. Our services include pediatric, family medicine, adult medicine, and OB/Gyn primary care services; specialty medical services; behavioral health and social services; health education; comprehensive HIV/AIDS services; nutrition services; a dental clinic; pharmacy; radiology; and eye care services.

About Reach Out and Read

Reach Out and Read is an evidence-based nonprofit organization of doctors and nurses who promote literacy, school readiness, and early brain development in pediatric exam rooms nationwide by giving new books to children and advice to parents about the importance of reading aloud. Reach Out and Read builds on the unique relationship between parents and medical providers to develop critical early reading skills in children, beginning at 6 months of age. As a result of this literacy intervention, Reach Out and Read families read together more often, and their children enter kindergarten better prepared to succeed, with larger vocabularies and stronger language skills. Nationwide, Reach Out and Read’s 20,000 medical providers serve 4 million children and their families annually at 5,000 pediatric practices, health centers, and hospitals with a focus on those that serve low-income communities. In Massachusetts, Reach Out and Read serves more than 188,000 children at 295 clinical locations across the Commonwealth. For more information on Reach Out and Read, please visit www.reachoutandread.org.