teacher ratios, capable, experienced teachers and specialists, and a sufficient quantity of high-quality books and other materials.

What Can We Do Before Children Reach School?

“My biggest obstacle in teaching reading is the lack of experiences that some children are bringing to school—lack of language experiences involving reading, print, and concepts. Experiences like having your mother explain the types of fruit at the grocery store or playing with funnels in the bathtub. Experiences that come with having been talked to and read to.”

—Emelie Parker

First grade teacher

Bailey’s Elementary School

Fairfax County, Virginia

Health Care Professionals and Reading

Because of their regular contact with children during early childhood, pediatricians, and other health care and human service professionals have a responsibility to screen children for risk factors that could lead to reading difficulties. As early in the child’s life as possible, health care professionals should identify problems, such as mental retardation, hearing impairment, early language impairment, and delays in expressive and receptive language milestones, as well as family histories of reading problems that could be passed on to children. In cases of hearing impairment, early identification and intervention is especially important and can make all the difference in whether or not a child becomes a successful reader.

Beyond routine screening, health care professionals have a wonderful opportunity to promote reading. At routine visits, they can help guide parents and encourage children’s literacy development. In one program, volunteers in doctors’ waiting rooms demonstrate for parents book-sharing and book-reading techniques, doctors prescribe parents to read books to their children, and books are given to parents with low incomes. Parents also receive information on the importance of reading and having books in the home.

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