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Heads Up! seeks to change the practice of pediatrics by making literacy development a part of every child's pediatric care.
"Heads Up! Children Read, Listen and Learn," sponsored by the Division of Child Development, makes literacy a part of primary pediatric care. Heads Up! was designed to address the problems of inadequate language development and illiteracy that are prevalent among inner city children. The project's goal is to educate the parents of the thousands of children who use the New York Hospital pediatric clinics each year to promote optimal language development and reading skills in their children. The American Academy of Pediatrics has recently formally recommended the promotion of early language and literacy development to its 53,000 members as a standard of routine pediatric care. The Heads Up! program serves children in the pediatric clinics who come from the ethnically diverse communities of Manhattan, as well as the surrounding boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. Most of the children who receive their care in the pediatric clinic come from families that are economically disadvantaged. Children from these homes are at high risk for developmental delays in language skills and are susceptible to reading failure. If these problems are not prevented, a child's risk for school failure increases greatly, while his or her opportunities for later social and economic success decrease. The Heads Up! program gives parents of at-risk children the information, encouragement and materials they need to make books a part of their children's lives. The program integrates parent education about literacy development into the regularly scheduled well-child visits. Children from 6 months to five years of age--who represent the majority of the kids that we see--are reached even before they school system can begin to teach them. Volunteers for the Heads Up! book program are trained by the developmental psychologist in the Division of Child Development. In the pediatric clinic waiting room, they engage children with books and reading aloud, listening to children read and modeling book-related interactions for parents. They also talk to families about the program and convey the importance of early literacy. We require a commitment of at least one afternoon per week from 1pm-4pm, when the book program runs.
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