Exposure to books is essential to brain development in the first two years of life
Families in poverty have few books in the home
Rates of childhood and adult obesity, cardio-vascular problems, diabetes, and other chronic health problems are at record levels in the U.S.
The connection between low-literacy levels and poor health status is well documented
48% of all U.S. adults have low literacy levels - approximately the 4th grade or below
Thus, for many low-literate parents, a children's book may be the most, or only health information accessible to them
Sharing Books Early is Critical to a Child’s Development
A newborn baby’s brain contains multiple neurologic connections.
The connections that are not reinforced by repetitive and frequent stimuli during the first 2 years of life are “pruned” - eliminated as if cut from the branches of a tree. These connections are then lost forever.
Book sharing between parents and their babies and toddlers has now been proven to be the most essential activity for optimum growth and development of a child’s brain.
Book sharing is essential because it provides visual, auditory, and motor stimulation, along with the social and emotional bonding and growth that results when a parent holds a baby on their lap and talks to them about the pictures.
The number one activity a parent can do with their child to prepare them for success in formal education is to read to them on a daily basis.
According to the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAALS)~
- 14% of U.S. adults scored at the "below basic" literacy level
- 29% scored at the "basic" literacy level
- 5% were not literate in English
The Intergenerational Cycle of Low Literacy
Parents who don't read well are less likely to have books in the home, less likely to have been read to as a child, and less likely to know about the importance of books to their child's brain development.
Families below the poverty level report having less than two books in the house, neither of which may be appropriate for children.
Children in impoverished families are read to only 25 hours on average between birth and kindergarten. During that same span of time, children from middle-class families are read to an average of 1500 hours.
A mother’s education level is predictive of her child's performance in school. In the U.S. only one-third of teen mothers obtain their high school diploma.
The U.S. has the highest teen pregnancy rate of any developed nation at 900,000 teen births per year.
Source: Reach Out and Read
AR Well Child READs
The Health Literacy Link
In 2002, the average American spent $5,440 for health care. Studies indicate that health care costs for adults with low literacy skills are four times the national average, or $21,760.
Individuals with low literacy skills have a higher rate of hospitalization and increased incidents of medication and treatment errors than the general public.
Low literate adults are less likely to use preventative care, and are more likely to report poor health status.
According to the American Medical Association, poor literacy skills cost the U.S. health care industry $73 billion per year
American Medical Association
Effects of Low Literacy in Society
Low literate adults are more likely to ~
Drop out of school
Have a higher rate of teenage pregnancy
Suffer from depression and drug use
Have poor nutrition
Live in substandard housing and in violent neighborhoods
AR Well Child READs!
Obesity and Related Conditions
Childhood obesity rates in the U.S. have risen alarmingly in 30 years
- Obesity among preschool children - doubled
- Children aged 6-11 years - tripled
- Adolescents aged 12-19 years - doubled
Approximately 15% of U.S. children are overweight
One third of all adults are obese; Two thirds of all adults are overweight
Overweight and obesity are known risk factors for:
> diabetes > heart disease
> stroke > hypertension
> gallbladder disease > osteoarthritis
> sleep apnea & other breathing problems
> some forms of cancer
Institute of Medicine
National Institutes of Health
Need for Responsive Health Information Materials
Health information materials are frequently written at grades 13 and up - college level.
The American Medical Association and National Assessment of Adult Literacy define health literacy as follows:
"the ability to use printed and written information associated with a broad range of health-related tasks to accomplish one’s goals at home, in the workplace, and in the community (including health care settings)."
Because of the prevalence of low-literacy skills NAALs recommends customized programs and materials be developed that address deficiencies in health literacy skills.
The development of health information tailored to the strengths and weaknesses of target audiences
National Institute for Literacy
American Medical Association
What the Levels Mean
Below Basic: adult can perform no more than the most simple and concrete literacy skills
Basic:adult can perform simple and everyday literacy activities
Intermediate: adult can perform moderately challenging literacy activities
Proficient:adult can perform complex and challenging literacy activities
When health and human service providers give families books and encouragement, even parents who don’t read well begin to “share” books with their children by pointing to the pictures and talking about them with their child.
Thepediatric literacy intervention program, Reach Out and Read, is one of only two initiatives that have been proven to have positives effect on children's health and development. The other initiative is immunizations.