Evidence Supporting Early Literacy and Early Learning

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​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Explore the evidence base that supports promoting early literacy. This includes the AAP policy statement on early literacy as well as th​e AAP School Readiness technical report.


"A mother of a 4-year-old boy recently shared with me how receiving books and guidance from her pediatrician changed her life. She had been reading to her young son the same way that she'd been read to as child—telling her son to sit down and be quiet and listen. The mother was frustrated when instead of listening quietly he would interrupt or not pay attention. From her son's pediatrician, the mother learned that it was important for the child to ask questions, to ask him questions while reading, and to discuss what they were reading while they were reading it. Their whole relationship around books changed. Now they look forward to sharing books together, and it is happy time for both."

—Rachel Walker, Coalition leader for Reach Out and Read, Washington, DC


AAP Policy Statements and Clinical Reports


The following AAP policy statements and reports provide the evidence to support the importance of fostering early literacy and early learning activities for all patients, starting from birth.

The Connection Between Early Literacy Promotion and Brain Development


The science of Early Brain and Child Development (EBCD) has taught us about the critical impact of children's early experiences upon their learning, health and lifecourse trajectory. Pediatricians can translate the science of EBCD into their clinical practice by focusing on fostering safe, stable, nurturing early relationships. By promoting early literacy, pediatric professionals can help support optimal early brain and child development.

It is amazing what is going on in young brains when parents read, talk, and sing with their children. Connections are made and strengthened that teach them more words. They learn that pictures and words in books have meaning. They learn to love books and the special time they spend with those that they love the most. This makes them feel loved, safe and secure. They feel good about themselves and good about their relationship with their parents and caregivers, the people they love the most in the world.

Visit the AAP EBCD website to learn more about early brain and child development, including what it means for pediatricians, ways to transform clinical practice, and resources for families.

Evidence Base for Literacy Promotion in Primary Care

​For further reading, the following articles provide key research on the benefits and importance of early literacy promo​tion in clinical settings.

Child-centered Literacy Orientation: a Form of Social Capital?
High PC, Hopmann MR, LaGasse L, Sege R, Moran J, Guiterrez C, Becker S. Pediatrics.​ 1999;103(4):e55.

Clinic-based Intervention to Promote Literacy: a Pilot Study
Needlman R, Fried LE, Morley DS, Taylor S, Zuckerman B. Am J Dis Child. 1991; 145 (8):881-884.

Effectiveness of a Primary Care Intervention to Support Reading Aloud: a Multicenter Evaluation
Needlman R, Toker KH, Dreyer BP, Klass P, Mendelsohn AL. Ambul Pediatr. 2005 Jul-Aug;5(4):209-215.

Efficacy of Pediatric Office-Based Interventions to Support Literacy Development
Reach Out and Read.

Exposure to Reach Out and Read and Vocabulary Outcomes in Inner City Preschoolers
Sharif I, Reiber S, Ozuah PO. J Natl Med Assoc. 2002;94(3):171-177.

From Neurons to Neighborhoods: the Science of Early Childhood Development
Committee on Integrating the Science of Ear​ly Childhood Development. Jack P Shonkoff and Deborah A Phillips,Editors. ​Board on Children, Youth, and Families, National Research Council and Institute of Medicine National Academy Press; Washington, DC.

The Impact of a Clinic-based Literacy Intervention on Language Development in Inner-city Preschool Children
Mendelsohn AL, Mogilner LN, Dreyer BP, Forman JA, Weinstein SC, Boderick M, Cheng KJ, Magloire, Moore T, Napier C. Pediatrics. 2001;107:130-134.

Literacy Promotion for Hispanic Families in a Primary Care Setting: a Randomized, Controlled Trial
Golova N, Alario AJ, Vivier PM, Rodriguez M, High PC. Pediatrics. 1999;103:993-997.

Literacy Promotion in Primary Care Pediatrics: Can We Make a Difference?
High PC, LaGasse L, Becker S, Ahlgren I, Gardner A. Pediatrics. 2000; 105(4 Pt 2):927-934.​

Medical Provider Developmental Code Card
Reach Out and Read

Prescribing Books for Immigrant Children: a Pilot Study to Promote Emergent Literacy Among the Children of Hispanic Immigrants
Sanders LM, Gershon TD, Huffman LC, Mendoza FS. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2000;154:771-777.

Reach Out and Read, Military Doctors Team Up to Promote Early Literacy for Children of Military Families
Article from the January 2009 issue of Chapter Connections, page 6 (requires AAP member status)

The 30 Million Word Gap: the Role of Parent–Child Verbal Interaction in Language and Literacy Development
Annie E Casey Foundation Campaign for Grade-Level Reading: 3rd Grade Reading Success Matters

​Selected Reading for Early Language and Literacy Promotion


Handbook of Reading Research
Editor: P David Pearson, University of California at Berkeley
Section Editors: Rebecca Barr, Michael L Kamil, Peter B Mosenthal
Lawrence Earlbaum Associates, New Jersey, 2001​​

Meaningful Differences in Everyday Experience of Young American Children
Betty Hart, PhD and Todd Risley, PhD—University of Kansas
Paul H Brookes Publishing Company, Baltimore, 1995

The Social World of Children Learning to Talk
Betty Hart, PhD—University of Kansas
Todd Risley, PhD—University of Alaska at Anchorage and University of Kansas
Paul H Brookes Publishing Company, Baltimore, 1999