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Photo of Mrs. Bush and PBS muppets. White House photo by Susan Sterner.

 White House Summit on Early Childhood
 Reach Out & Read Initiative

Ready to Read, Ready to Learn
Early Childhood Cognitive Development

Highlight successful early childhood pre-reading and vocabulary programs
Many children simply do not have early opportunities to develop a love for language and reading. Not having those opportunities can have devastating effects on a child's success in school. For many children, being left behind does not begin in elementary school -- it begins in the years between the crib and the classroom.

The scientific research of the past decade reveals how children learn to read and how parents and teachers can enhance that process. Evidence clearly shows that parents and pre-school programs can use specific age-appropriate and fun activities to help children get ready to read and ready to learn.

Laura Bush believes we can provide beneficial experiences for growing children, especially during the vital formative years. With good instruction and supportive families, children learn language through interesting conversations that are enriched by books, stories and explanations. Mrs. Bush also wants parents, grandparents and caregivers to learn more about the science of preparing children for success in school.

Programs That Work

The White House Summit on Early Childhood Cognitive Development
The July 2001 White House Summit on Early Childhood Cognitive Development was hosted by Mrs. Bush, along with U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige and U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson. The conference outlined what parents, grandparents, early childhood educators, childcare providers, and other caregivers can systematically do to provide children with rich and rewarding experiences during a period of child development that is marked by extraordinary growth and change.
More about the summit >>>

The Margaret H. Cone Center
The Margaret Cone Center, a Head Start program located in one of Dallas' poorest neighborhoods, uses a curriculum called LEAP or the Language Enrichment Activities Program.

This program is rich in pre-reading and vocabulary development activities-activities that are fun for children and cultivate skills that are known to contribute to success in school. After this language-rich program was introduced in 1994, achievement levels soared for children who moved on from the Cone Center to the local public school. Programs like the Cone Center are models for America that other early childhood programs can follow.

Reach Out and Read
Reach Out and Read makes early literacy a standard part of pediatric primary care. Pediatricians encourage parents to read aloud to their young children and give books to parents to take home at all pediatric check-ups from six months to five years of age. Volunteers in clinic waiting rooms read aloud to children, showing parents and children fun techniques for using books together. Parents hear repeatedly that reading aloud is the most important thing they can do to help their children love books and reading and to start school ready to learn.

ROR is a non-profit organization founded in 1989 at Boston Medical Center (formerly Boston City Hospital), through a collaboration of pediatricians and early childhood educators. With both public and private funding, the ROR National Center provides start-up and sustainability funding for books, as well as training and technical assistance to ROR programs across the country.
More about Reach Out and Read>>>

Assist Parents and Caregivers in Helping their Children Learn
All parents need to know how important it is to read to their babies and to encourage children to play with books in the five or six years before kindergarten. Research on language acquisition and brain development shows that the groundwork for reading is laid from the day a child is born.

Healthy Start, Grow Smart
The Healthy Start, Grow Smart magazine series provides parents with critical information about the early development, health, nutrition and safety needs of babies and toddlers.

Mrs. Bush initiated a similar effort in Texas and is now sharing this same helpful information with new parents across the country. The magazine outlines activities that stimulate infant brain development - and builds skills that children will need once they start school. Ideas are included for fun, age-appropriate activities that center around reading, language, and learning.

These magazines, printed in English and Spanish, are available every month for the first 12 months of a baby's life. The are given to new mothers who might not otherwise have access to this vital information. Local family assistance clinics (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, or WIC) and state health and human services agencies will provide the magazines, and the entire series will be available on Mrs. Bush's website:
More about Healthy Start, Grow Smart>>>

Put Reading First
Mrs. Bush spotlighted two publications at the October 2001 Regional Summit on Early Childhood Cognitive Development in Cincinnati, hosted by the Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky State Departments of Education. This conference was designed to bring together educators, leaders, researchers and policy makers in the area of early childhood cognitive development to present the proven, research-based strategies parents and teachers can use to promote learning readiness among young children.

The first publication, Put Reading First: Helping Your Child Learn to Read (preschool through third grade), offers information about pre-reading and reading activities that are proven to help children successfully learn to read.

The second publication, Put Reading First: The Research Building Blocks for Teaching Children to Read (kindergarten through third grade), puts research-based approaches for effective pre-reading and reading instruction into an easy-to-use format for teachers.

Both publications are the work of the Partnership for Reading, a collaboration of the U.S. Department of Education, the National Institute for Literacy, and the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development. You can find the publications on the web at

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