Sunday, September 27, 2020

GUEST BLOGGER SERIES: Dr. Mariana Glusman "Leyendo Juntos (Reading Together) Initiative Promotes Literacy Among Latino Families"

Latinovations would like to thank Dr. Glusman for her contribution to La Plaza.

Multiple studies have demonstrated that Latino children lag behind their non-Latino peers all along the educational ladder, from Kindergarten to college. The latest study from University of California at Berkley, points to the fact that this disparity is noticeable even by age two, long before these children go to school, and widens over time.  While it will be very important to improve our educational system to better serve Latino youth, and to increase Latino children’s access to Head Start and other early education programs, it is clear that we need an intervention that starts at home, before Latino children begin to fall behind.

Reading aloud stimulates language and cognitive development by encouraging an enriched interaction between parents and their children. In 2000, the National Survey of Early Childhood Health showed that Latino mothers were less than half as likely to read daily with their children as white, non-Latino mothers, and 10 times more likely to NEVER read with them. This may, in part, explain the gap that the researchers at Berkley found.  Latino parents encounter many barriers to reading with their children, including a lack of Spanish or bilingual books, lack of time, and a lack of comfort with reading.  Reach Out and Read is a 20 year-old literacy promotion program that addresses many of these barriers.

Reach Out and Read (ROR) takes advantage of the important relationship that parents have with their pediatrician to promote the value of reading together. At every well child visit from 6 months to 5 years, the provider gives the child a new book and gives the parent advice about the benefits of reading aloud regularly.    ROR has more than 13 peer-reviewed studies that demonstrate its effectiveness.  Parents that participate in ROR read more frequently with their children, and children who participate in ROR have up to 6 months higher scores in language tests.  There are 4,500ROR programs nationwide, serving 3.8 million children.

Recognizing that 86% of ROR sites serve Spanish-speaking families, in 2007 ROR started the Leyendo Juntos (Reading Together) Initiative, to tailor literacy promotion messages, to best serve the hundreds of thousands of Latino Children ROR cares for.  Among other things, ROR developed materials, in English and in Spanish, to help doctors teach families about the importance of reading together, starting when the child is 6 months old.   ROR stresses that reading (as well as talking, and singing, etc.) helps children’s language development, and prepares them for school success.  ROR also focuses on Latino’s strengths, such as the family, and cariño (affection) as part of the Leyendo Juntos message.  Other barriers are addresses by providing Spanish or bilingual books, referring families to the library, and modeling for parents how to make reading aloud fun.

Through Leyendo Juntos, ROR is reaching Latino parents one to two years BEFORE the linguistic and cognitive disparities found in the Berkley study appear. This low cost intervention provides Latino parents with the tools they need to stimulate their children’s development and close that early gap, a fist step toward eliminating the educational disparities that Latino children experience.

Mariana Glusman, MD is an assistant professor of Pediatrics at Northwestern University. She has been a primary care pediatrician at the Children’s Memorial Hospital Uptown Clinic, an academic community health center, since 1996.  Her areas of interest are literacy promotion in the pediatric setting, health literacy, working with Latino families, and improving links between pediatricians and schools. She is the Medical Director of Reach Out and Read Illinois and the Chairperson of the Leyendo Juntos (Reading Together) National Advisory Committee for Reach Out and Read.

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