On January 23, 2014, the Schubert Center co-hosted Robert Needlman, MD, professor at the CWRU School of Medicine and pediatric physician at MetroHealth Medical Center, Sari Feldman, MA, executive director of the Cuyahoga County Public Library, and Linda Williams, PhD, senior director of education at WVIZ/PBS ideastream. The three came together to speak about partnerships between pediatricians, public libraries and public media in assisting high risk families with young children to encourage the development of early literacy skills. This lecture was held in collaboration with Pediatric Grand Rounds, UH Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital.
Needlman co-founded the national organization Reach Out and Read, a non-profit that partners with doctors and nurses to promote reading aloud to young children, and is the current president of the Greater Cleveland Reach Out and Read coalition. He spoke about the urgent need to encourage literacy skills in children even before preschool, particularly in Cleveland, which has the highest rate of child poverty of any Ohio urban area and high school dropout rates. Reading difficulties early in a child’s educational career can lead to long-term difficulties in comprehension of materials. Needlman emphasized that, as trusted health care providers, pediatricians are key in encouraging parents to practice literacy skills with their young children as well as to help connect parents to other community resources promoting reading. He discussed Reach Out and Read Plus, a pilot program which combines Reach Out and Read interventions with guides to educational media provided by WVIZ/PBS ideastream and conducts monthly updates with local pediatricians about local educational events and opportunities.
Feldman highlighted several unique programs at the Cuyahoga County Public Library to encourage early literacy and promote libraries as a family-friendly space. As part of the Cuyahoga County Public Library’s capital campaign begun in 2011, several libraries have received recent renovations or new buildings, including interactive early childhood areas, incorporating multiple play areas that encourage different key early literacy skills. The Cuyahoga County Public Library also hosts an after school homework program with trained tutors and a free snack as well as a summer free lunch program at several libraries. She emphasized the importance of libraries as a resource for low-income families and creating libraries that are comfortable and family-friendly.
Williams discussed the importance of public media programming in promoting early child literacy. As the largest PBS station in Ohio, WVIZ hosts the largest educational outreach department. Through television programs, tablet apps and online games, WVIZ promotes literacy skills using innovative media. Williams showed a video about WVIZ-sponsored summer school programming as part of an initiative to improve literacy through educational games and cutting-edge technology.