We have found ourselves working with Reach Out and Read Rhode Island because we believe in the power of ALL parents and caregivers to express their love for their babies and children through the positive and language-rich interactions that happen around the books we provide to families at pediatric office visits. We believe in the amazing power of those neural connections that are forged inside a young child’s brain through those words and stories and songs shared in the setting of family routines and nurturing relationships. We know that the families we serve are rich in talent and potential – but not always in opportunity. Still, we believe that we can help parents and caregivers do what they most want to do – use books and stories and words to help their children grow into everything that they can possibly be, by reading with them, telling stories, asking and answering questions, and explaining the world.
But recently it has felt like explaining the world is a difficult and sad duty. The COVID19 pandemic has brought home the disparities and divisions which put the success of so many families we serve in deep jeopardy. It is our honor, at Reach Out and Read Rhode Island, to serve and support families all over our state who are doing their best for their children, including many families, especially in Black and Brown neighborhoods which have been hit so hard by the pandemic – over and above their disproportionate burdens of poverty, environmental pollution, systemic racism, and other toxins which prevent healthy growth and development. And with the death of George Floyd, and the grief and horror that hits so close to home for so many of our families and many of us, we want to acknowledge that just as it is our mission to help children grow up understanding and appreciating the world, it is also our duty and obligation to make sure that the world is worthy of every child.
Reach Out and Read RI has always striven to provide multicultural books that reflect the diverse population that we serve. In these trying times, we have expanded books we provide to children that deal with social and emotional issues and books to start a conversation about race. Below are some additional resources, including a link to Standing Up to Racism: A Town Hall for Kids and Families featuring Sesame Street characters.
Special thanks to our colleagues at Reach Out and Read National Center whose words were adapted for our message.
Natalia Golova, MD
Pamela High, MD
Bonnie Hirsh, MD
William Hollinshead, MD
Jessica Pepitone, MD
And although we always prefer sharing books to sharing videos with our children, this CNN Town Hall with Sesame Street characters is excellent.