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News from Reach Out and Read Washington State
In This Issue
No Rich Child Left Behind
Give Big for Little Children
Special Session Begins May 13
Potential Merger of Early Learning Organiztions
Imagine a Flying Pig
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May 2013

 "The more we do to ensure that all children have similar cognitively stimulating early childhood experiences, the less we will have to worry about failing schools. This in turn will enable us to let our schools focus on teaching the skills--how to solve complex problems, how to think critically and how to collaborate--essential to a growing economy and a lively democracy."

-- Sean F. Reardon, Professor of Education and Sociology,
Stanford University


It's all about the right intervention at the right time. There is so much to do, and so much at stake, that it is easy to be overwhelmed by a complex problem, like how to improve our educational system so that we achieve better outcomes for students and for society.


Each of us has decisions to make today--and over the next months and years--about how to spend our own time and energy, both in our personal and professional lives. For some of us there is considerable overlap. I am a pediatrician married to a former public high school teacher/now guidance counselor--and we just celebrated our 20th anniversary. During those 20 years he's worked for Seattle Public Schools, and we are now nearing the end of year 11 with a student in Seattle Schools. This week my husband is helping family after family address health, educational, and family issues; and for some the last-minute scramble to see if an anticipated high school graduation will be possible. Tomorrow our daughter takes the MSP for 6th graders (Washington's statewide standardized test), and our son is preparing for an AP test in a class that all sophomores at his high school are automatically enrolled in. So my household is knee deep in middle school and high school issues, and the stresses and opportunities associated with each.


Over those same 20 years that I have been a pediatrician, changes in health care have been the norm, and the trend toward increasing access to care extremely important. At the same time, however, "the tsunami that is health care reform," as I heard someone say recently, is almost upon us. The stresses on the health care system, and on the providers within it, as it prepares to serve more people are already tremendous. My own work has transitioned from one where I took care of many teenagers in pediatric practice, to a focus on systems and policy and programs related to parents and early learning. At Reach Out and Read we seek to improve what are traditionally seen as educational outcomes, by supporting health care providers as they support parents. Health and education are intertwined for children and families, and both of these complex systems need to work better individually and together, to improve outcomes.


Large 'system changing' efforts that are evidence-based, impact whole populations, and improve outcomes should be the hallmark of what we do in both health care and education. Yet the devil is in the details. In the meantime families, researchers, policy makers, teachers, doctors, and all those who serve children and families must weather this together, with a firm eye on the end goal--better outcomes.


The case to invest in early childhood is clear. And Washington is making progress--with steps toward increasing access to full day kindergarten, to preschool for children living in low-income families, and to home visiting for significantly at risk families. A central missing piece in Washington's Early Learning System is an evidence-based focus on parents and the youngest children--and by that I mean policy paired with investment in a strategy that will support many, if not most, parents, and improve outcomes for large numbers of children. That's what we're all about at Reach Out and Read, and Professor Reardon's New York Times article "The Great Divide: No Rich Child Left Behind" helps explain why a broad-based approach to supporting parents is needed. Read on to learn more, and for news about Thrive by Five and the Foundation for Early Learning, how to "Give Big" to support Reach Out and Read; and even what flying pigs teach us about language.


We're hopeful that Reach Out and Read's state funding will be restored by the time the budget is signed. We need that to happen, so please advocate! At the same time we are rolling up our sleeves to figure out the best next steps toward making sure our collective actions lead to the outcome we need--a bright future for all of Washington's young people.

Thank you for your support.


Jill Sells, MD and the Reach Out and Read Washington Team




Money Scales

A deeper understanding of inequities in educational outcomes highlights need to invest in parents and our youngest children. Stanford professor Sean Reardon's review of data from 1960-2010 found that that the rich-poor gap in test scores has increased by 40% in the past 30 years. Further, children's success in school is now better predicted by family income than by race. Learn more about the need to support middle class families, in addition to those living in poverty, in The Great Divide: No Rich Child Left Behind .


According to Professor Reardon, "It boils down to this: The academic gap is widening because rich students are increasingly entering kindergarten much better prepared to succeed in school than middle-class students. This difference in preparation persists through elementary and high school."


And what does he suggest we do about this? "... we need to do much more than expand and improve preschool and child care. There is a lot of discussion these days about investing in teachers and "improving teacher quality," but improving the quality of our parenting and of our children's earliest environments may be even more important. Let's invest in parents so they can better invest in their children." It's a long and nuanced article worth reading (The New York Times, The Opinion Pages, April 27, 2013).






Please support Reach Out and Read during GiveBIG on Wednesday, May 15th. We're participating in the Seattle Foundation's annual GiveBIG, a one-day charitable giving event with an added "stretch" pool. Make your donation go even farther to help families read together. Join in to donate to us from midnight to midnight through our Reach Out and Read -Seattle Foundation site, and we'll receive additional "bonus" dollars from the "stretch" pool. The more donations we receive, the bigger the bonus!


Get ready to Give BIG (or give a little) and mark your calendar for May 15th. Rally your friends, and "Like" us on Facebook for updates. 



Members of the legislature return to work on Monday, tasked primarily with coming to an agreement on the state budget. The publicly released budgets are far apart, and many early learning priorities remain at risk. Both the House and Senate have included funding for Reach Out and Read, but the Senate's version has no state funds, asking DEL to provide federal funding. While we were asking for an increase in the amount of funding, the most crucial issue now is that the funding we do receive be state funds.


Reach Out and Read is part of the Early Learning Action Alliance (ELAA), a coalition of organizations "united by the belief that all children in Washington State deserve to have the opportunities and support they need in their first five years of life to be prepared for school and a bright future."


Read the latest on ELAA priorities for the special session, and contact legislators to urge their support.




 Thrive By 5FEL Logo


Thrive by Five Washington and the Foundation for Early Learning are considering a new path forward. Both organizations have communicated with stakeholders, and together they've created a web resource to help answer questions, sharing this introductory message:


The boards of Thrive by Five Washington and the Foundation for Early Learning are discussing merging their two organizations to create a new organization that would better serve Washington's youngest children and families. Both boards are excited to explore this possibility and are committed to a thoughtful and expeditious process that will include an opportunity for stakeholders to provide input before a final decision is made. A decision on whether to merge is expected by early July.


Learn more through these Frequently Asked Questions.




Gliding Pig

Fascinating research shows how language is a 'whole brain' activity. "Although a flying pig doesn't exist in the real world, our brains use what we know about pigs and birds--and superheroes--to create one in our mind's eye when we hear or read those words." Check out this story on NPR about how words help shape the brain (you can read it or listen).




Find us on Facebook


Reach Out and Read Washington State is on Facebook.  Please LIKE us.  If you could also suggest our Facebook page to your friends, that would go a long way in helping us spread our message about early literacy. Thanks! 




Reach Out and Read helps prepare children to succeed in school by partnering with doctors to prescribe books and encourage families to read together. Our evidence-based proven program leverages the influence of children's doctors and makes literacy a standard part of well-child checkups from ages 6 months through 5 years. Reach Out and Read supports parents as their child's first teacher and helps children be ready for kindergarten. 


Through 154 programs in 31 counties, 1,000 medical providers serve an estimated 86,000 children and their families across Washington. Reach Out and Read Washington State is a Regional Office of Reach Out and Read, Inc., a national not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization.



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Telephone - 206-524-3579
Fax - 206-524-4768  

Address - 155 NE 100th Street - Suite 301, Seattle WA 98125