On Thursday, February 4th, DC AAP participated as Mayor Muriel Bowser and Councilmembers Charles Allen and David Grosso launched a new DC early childhood literacy program. The STAR Books from Birth Program offers every DC child the opportunity to receive a free book each month from birth through age five. The program, managed by the DC Public Library, will also connect families with the full range of library resources and educational information, including adult literacy assistance and DCPL’s Sing, Talk, & Read early literacy program.
DC AAP began partnering with Councilmember Allen over a year ago as he developed legislation to create the Books from Birth program, a critical step in addressing DC’s literacy and achievement gap at its starting point, well before children begin school. DC AAP’s involvement, along with the decision to hold the program launch at Children’s National, highlights the important link between health and education. The STAR Books from Birth Program is rooted in years of science and data. We know that adults with higher literacy tend to have better control of chronic illness and better overall health. When parents have the early literacy tools – in this case, books and tips – to teach their children, we unlock children’s potential. Healthy, curious, thriving children can then become productive, stable, healthier adults.
DC AAP President, Dr. Lanre Falusi, spoke with reporters at the launch, explaining that when pediatricians encourage parents to read, talk, sing, and play with their young children starting from birth, the children enter kindergarten with larger vocabularies and stronger language skills. Research has shown that kids in more affluent families hear – and therefore, learn – more words than their peers in less affluent families. In fact, this word gap grows so dramatically that, by age 4, kids in less affluent families have heard 30 million fewer words than kids in more affluent families. In school, the word gap often becomes the achievement gap.
DC joins a growing list of municipalities nationally working to close the word gap by increasing young children’s access to books. To learn more about the program and how to assist parents in enrolling their children, please visit http://dclibrary.org/freebooks. As pediatricians, we have the opportunity to help ensure that all children in DC, aged birth to five, receive the wonderful benefit of a free book every month. Please talk about the program with your patient families and make sure your patients are registered!