Skip to Main Content
Skip Nav Destination

AAP National Conference: Early childhood literacy vital for Spanish-speaking families :

October 25, 2016

The results are overwhelmingly positive: Research shows families served by the Reach Out and Read (ROR) program read to their children more often and their toddlers understand and say more words than those who don’t take part. Furthermore, ROR is effective even when parents aren’t proficient in English or have limited education.

Through the program, medical professionals are trained to speak with parents about the importance of reading aloud, starting in infancy. Children also are given a new book at each well-child visit from 6 months through 5 years of age.

Eighty-six percent of Reach Out and Read programs nationwide serve families whose primary language is Spanish. Myriad resources are available through the Leyendo Juntos (Reading Together) initiative to work with these families.

Information about Leyendo Juntos was presented during an Interactive Group Forum titled “Promote Early Childhood Literacy for Spanish-speaking Families: Leyendo Juntos!”

There are wonderful online materials to use that were shared at the session, said Bronwen Anders, M.D., FAAP, emeritus professor of pediatrics at the University of California San Diego.

The forum began with a discussion of disparities among Latino children in the U.S. in language acquisition, language use in the home and poverty. Data also were presented on the effectiveness of ROR for Spanish-speaking families, and the Leyendo Juntos model was introduced.

Attendees then participated in two break-out sessions. In one, small groups role played scenarios that involve health care providers who do not speak Spanish and parents who speak only Spanish to get a feel for how Leyendo Juntos can be used.

Participants discussed challenges and successes at the end of the session and brainstorm best approaches, said Janine Young, M.D., FAAP, medical director of the Denver Health Refugee Clinic and a member of the AAP Section on International Child Health.

The session then moved into a discussion of ways to use this model in Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries, as well as successful programs in low-income countries and disaster-prone areas aspiring to foster resilience and enhance healing, added Dr. Anders, a section member.

The second breakout session addressed how to start a Leyendo Juntos program, including how to train providers, involve residents, identify funding sources and maintain the program.

Dr. Young, who has been providing care to Latino immigrant families for over 15 years,

said she uses a ROR book to engage the child and parent when she walks into an exam room.

“I am able to do a quick developmental assessment (the 6-month infant who smiles at pictures of babies and rakes at the book, or the 15-month-old who turns pages with her pincer grasp),” she said. “Parents are often pleasantly surprised to see how engaged their young children are with books.”

The program also can be incorporated into a busy office practice.

“This is an easy win for children and families and something that is relatively easy to accomplish in the scheme of other medical and social issues that pediatricians must address,” Dr. Young said. “It is an incredibly satisfying aspect of my, at times, stressful job and provides joy to my patients and families as well.”

For more coverage of the AAP National Conference & Exhibition visit

Close Modal

or Create an Account

Close Modal
Close Modal