LIsa-Anne Williams sees books as an avenue for parents who read with their children to learn more about them.
“For parents, that’s a chance to get to know your child, to see their strengths and learn what they are really interested in, and develop that mutual respect, being able to take time to speak and say how you feel,” she said.
The Early Learning Partnership of York County administers Reach Out and Read, a national evidence-based program, in 10 pediatric medical offices across York County. Children birth to age 5 receive a new book to read with their family from participating doctors during their well child visits.
Williams, the mother of four and a former elementary school teacher, is vice president of the ELP board. She works for Aperture Education, which provides social and emotional learning resources for children to schools and other organizations.
Williams said ELP’s Reach Out And Read encourages parents not only to read with their children each day, but to engage in conversation. Families are encouraged to take turns sharing their thoughts about what they read and listening to each other.
She said how parents read with their children, and how well they encourage and engage in back-and-forth conversation with them, is as important as simply making time to sit down and read together.
“Those skills we do as adults and model to our children help them when they get into the classroom,” she said. “Taking turns, listening to another person’s point of view, being confident, talking about what they enjoy doing.”
Through ELP’s collaboration with the national ROR office and its ROR-Carolinas affiliate, ELP provides training to the medical team and new children’s books that are both diverse and age and language appropriate. The program promotes bonding, early brain development and a love of learning in young children and families.
Williams said she’s pleased with the thoughtful content of books provided by ROR. Some books tell stories that help children explore different situations. Other books use diverse characters to introduce children to differences between people.
Williams said her own daughter enjoyed a series of children’s books about a character called Molly Lou Melon, a petite, unique little girl who learns to stand up for herself when she meets a bully at school.
“It’s about seeing your own strengths and being able to get through challenges,” she said, adding that the book also explores the issue of supporting others. “I talk to my kids about how to help people who are in trouble, and how to be empathetic.”
Williams encourages parents to allow children to choose some of their own reading material, so they can explore their own interests, while also including books that feature characters who are unique or who have different outlooks on life.
“We talk about being accepting of diversity and different people’s strengths,” she said.
She also likes books that have interesting vocabulary, which helps children build their own word knowledge. One of her family’s favorites features a character called Fancy Nancy, who “has these fancy words.”
She encourages parents to continue reading with their children as they get older, even if their interests change. Older children may become more interested in reading so they can learn new information or find out how to do something, for example.
“For a parent to keep being intentional, even though the dynamics change, you still get that sitting down, the conversation, the time together,” she said. “You start to experience more the flow of ideas and thoughts. That is really interesting.”
She said parents who read daily and read intentionally with their children are helping to set them on a path to become lifelong learners.
“I believe in instilling that, not just in children but in adults,” she said. “Growing and learning as we move through life. That’s hugely important to being able to overcome challenges and move through different situations.”
Contact us if you have stories to share about your ROR experience at your pediatric practice.