A recent segment on PBS NewsHour creatively knit together two oft-forgotten elements for ensuring that more children learn to read: the power of the pediatrician and the disparities in access children face not just in preschool but also in full-day kindergarten.
The show highlighted a “new breed of pediatrician,” who is part doctor, part teacher. PBS correspondent John Merrow talked with a pediatrician at the Bellevue Hospital Center in New York City who described how doctors should be talking with parents of toddlers and preschoolers about their children’s language development and pre-reading skills. Shots of storytime in the waiting rooms of Bellevue’s offices highlight the doctor’s office as a great place to introduce parents to the importance of read-alouds and exploration of books.
The NewsHour story, which was produced in conjunction with Learning Matters, centers on Reach Out and Read, a non-profit organization that promotes early literacy and school readiness in pediatric exam rooms. But the story is more than a feel-good piece about an organization trying to help parents and their kids. It also highlights the many reasons that many school-age children fall behind in reading. In keeping with “preventative” theories that infuse the health field, the story highlights the dearth of affordable, high-quality preschool opportunities and the lack of universal access to a full day of kindergarten across the United States.
To drive home those last few points, Learning Matters asked me to talk about what is a possibly significant but essentially unknown number of children who are enrolled in kindergarten that lasts for little more than a few hours a day or who do not even attend kindergarten at all. The interview delved into the sorry state of data on children in pre-K and kindergarten (as detailed in our report, Counting Kids and Tracking Funds in Pre-K and Kindergarten), and the troubling implications for equitable policies and education advocacy. You can hear the interview here. And the PBS NewsHour clip is below:
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