Build resilience through books

Books provide a way to explore the world, different times, and even different worlds. They also provide families with a way to build resilience to deal with a stressful world. At the virtual 2021 American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference & Exhibition, Perri Klass, MD, FAAP, professor of pediatrics at New York University in New York City discussed how promoting parent-child reading early in the child’s life not only involves learning and encourages literacy in the child, but also provides the means to protect against adverse childhood experiences, which can lead to negative health outcomes.

The Reach Out and Read program started 32 years ago as a project for both pediatricians and early educators. The intervention initially targeted children in families experiencing poverty, but was extended to all children. It is designed to promote literacy development, but over the years it has also come to consider school readiness, promoting brain development, and encouraging early relational health as goals. Practices involved in the program have waiting rooms rich in literacy, including volunteers to read books to children and gently used books. During the visits, the clinician provides guidance on creating routines, reading aloud, and integrating developmental interactivity. In addition, a child receives a developmentally and culturally appropriate book with every health check up to the age of 5 years.

So what findings did the program find? Parents are more than twice as likely to read to their children and families are more than twice as likely to read together. The odds of reading to a child more than 3 times a week also doubled after the invention. In the child, language development was improved 3 to 6 months after initiation and language proficiency also improves with more exposure. For the clinician there is more job satisfaction and in general compliance with the visits to the source also improves.

Also encourage reading time for families with small children:

Promotes the development of routines, which can provide predictability when stressful situations arise Develops loving and supportive relationships, which can buffer against toxic stress Promotes lap time and face time, which encourages physical affection Encourages parental feelings of self-efficacy through routines Reduces screen time and replaces it with a positive alternative Develops early language skills that can give children the words they need to share their needs and feelings

Klass concluded her session with a reminder that reading is a triumph of the early brain, which involves a whole host of neural processes, such as memory, cognition, and phonemic awareness. By using that triumph of incorporating family story time into a daily routine, the child is encouraged to discover that books are a source of pleasure and information that can open up a world of possibilities, all while being supported. by the family.


1. Klass P. Books build buffers: supporting family resilience through literacy. American Academy of Pediatrics 2021 National Conference and Exhibition; virtual. Accessed October 10, 2021.

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