“A baby’s healthy brain development in the early years (birth to three) provides the building blocks for educational achievement, economic productivity, responsible citizenship, lifelong health, strong communities, and successful parenting of the next generation.” This quote from the Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University provides the premise for the Reach Out and Read program.
Recently, The Children’s Trust of Florida and Reach Out and Read (ROR) Florida invited thought leaders, pediatricians, providers, and guests to Miami to celebrate ROR’s 30th Anniversary. It was fun re-connecting, sharing, and building new connective tissue while learning about this simple, cost-effective and scalable evidence-based intervention, and its potential to change lives.
Lisa Blair, CEO of the Miami-Dade Family Learning Partnership Inc., welcomed us and shared her vision for improving Florida Early Learning and School Readiness programs. Lisa introduced her mentor, the former publisher of the Miami Herald and winner of five Pulitzer Prizes, her hero David Lawrence, author of an inspiring autobiography A Dedicated Life. David shared his journey from his childhood to his career as founder of the Children’s Movement of Florida. “You can do almost anything if you are willing to commit yourself to what it takes. If the first path is blocked, take another.” His life is dedicated to service and improving the lives of children by strengthening early childhood development opportunities and School Readiness in Florida.
Our next speaker was Chief of Network Strategy, Evaluation & Research, Nikki Shearman Ph.D. She spoke about her work collecting and sharing ROR evidence; then she introduced Dr. Navsaria, professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin. He shared his thoughts in his presentation, “How Early Experiences Elevate Everything: Early Brain and Child Development and the future of Society.”
Parents want to give their children the best start in life, but the stress of poverty, lack of education, or difficult family situations may make it harder for parents to trust their own judgment. Dr. Navsaria reminded us that the true promise of health care lies not only in addressing traditional medical concerns but also in addressing significant determinants that may alter the very life course of children and families. This is difficult to do within the confines of the medical system, but the steadfast and wholehearted embrace of the ROR model and leadership bringing this evidence-based early literacy program to Florida clinics is an example of precisely this kind of work.
While some may glance at ROR and think it’s a book giveaway, the reality is that it is secretly a parenting engagement and support program.
“By training clinicians who perform regular checkups on kids to enquire, assess, support, model, and coach parents in how to productively nurture their children through responsive interactions, parents are literally wiring neurons in their brains for curiosity, compassion, cognition, and caring — skills which will support them for a lifetime and advance their futures as productive members of society. This is far-reaching but possible.”
He expressed his gratitude to everyone for their commitment to the children and families they serve and for their dedication to community and society.
This ROR Medical Symposium was a celebration of 30 years of school readiness, parent engagement, children’s health, and Florida’s dedicated medical champions building connective tissue to help their programs evolve and strengthen School Readiness opportunities to support a brighter future for all Florida’s children.