Grace Health continues to look for ways to serve patients and make a difference in our community. Recently, a partnership between Grace Health and Calhoun Intermediate School District’s Early Childhood Connections (ECC) was formed to provide a Family Engagement Initiative. The initiative includes a coordinated plan for ECC Family Coaches and Grace Health Resource Specialists to work in tandem to connect Grace Health families to parenting and school readiness support provided through ECC and in turn, connect ECC families to Grace Health services. The Family Coaches coordinating ECC services for Grace Health families are Aholibama, a bilingual English/Spanish speaking coach and Theresa, a bilingual English/Burmese speaking coach. The Family Engagement Initiative will start with children 3 – 4 years of age. Grace Health Resource Specialists will provide introduction Early Learning Toolkits to families with children 3 – 4 year of age and will connect them with one of the ECC Family Coaches. Families will meet with the ECC Family Coaches for a minimum of two home visits in which they will receive a larger Early Learning Toolkit. Susan Clark, Director of Early Childhood Services at Calhoun ISD explains that the toolkits contain educational materials, books, and other items to help parents support their child’s kindergarten readiness. “We believe this partnership is a wonderful opportunity to connect with families, provide them with materials to support their child’s emergent literacy learning and kindergarten readiness, as well as connect them to other early learning supports available in our community!”
This new initiative complements Grace Health’s Reach Out and Read / Early Literacy program that started 2004. When the program started, new, age-appropriate books were given to children 6 months – 5 years of age by their health care provider at each well-child visit. During the visit, the provider discusses with the parent/guardian the importance of reading with a child. Grace Health recently expanded its Reach Out and Reach Program and is now providing books to children birth – 5 years of age during their well-child visit. Results from the National Reach Out and Read’s independent, peer-reviewed research shows that the Reach Out and Read model has a “significant effect on parental behavior and attitudes toward reading aloud. Children who participate in the program demonstrate higher language skills. The impact of Reach Out and Read has been documented in ethnically and economically diverse families throughout the nation.” (www.reachoutadnread.org/why-wematter/the-evidence) Sariem Am, DNP, CPNP-PC/AC, Grace Health provider overseeing the Reach Out and Read program stated, “The Reach Out and Read program is not just a matter of fostering development of literacy skills in early childhood, but provides the opportunity in the context of pediatric health care to discuss with parents and caregivers the importance of parent-child interactions and encouraging reciprocal engagement. The social and emotional well-being of children begin in the early years in the context of family relationships and have a powerful impact on health outcomes in later life. I am excited that we are now giving books starting from birth because the earlier the introduction of books and reading, the better.”
The goals for Grace Health’s partnership with Calhoun ISD’s Early Childhood Connections and the Reach Out and Read / Early Literacy Program are to empower parents as their child’s first and most important teacher, improve early childhood outcomes (child health, child development, kindergarten readiness) and provide more informed referrals for families. The long-term goals are that children are healthy, thriving and developmentally ready to succeed in school and are reading proficiently by the end of third grade.