Getting Your Child Off to a Bright Start

Nemours BrightStart!A few months ago, my mom gave me an article she had cut out of the paper. It was about a program that screened pre-school aged children for reading readiness. I was fascinated, and made an appointment to have my three year-old daughter screened.

You can read about my personal experience on my blog. Today, I’d like to give you the opportunity to learn more about the program. I recently interviewed the woman who screened my daughter, Angela McDermott, Community Initiatives Coordinator for Nemours BrightStart!:

When was BrightStart! launched, and how many children have been screened to date?

Formed in 2005 at the request of the Nemours Board of Directors, Nemours BrightStart! (NBS) was created in Jacksonville, FL, to provide screening and instruction services in child care and preschool sites throughout Duval County, FL.

Since 2005, NBS has screened over 13,000 children in schools, childcare centers, and the community using a standardized early literacy-screening tool, the Get Ready to Read (GRTR). Through screening and intervention efforts, NBS has identified and provided high-quality early literacy instruction to over 3,000 young children at-risk for reading failure. Over two-thirds of the children each year score in the average or above-average range in early literacy skills following their participation in the program.   

If a child is identified as being at risk for reading failure, what resources are available? Is there any follow-up planned for that child?

If a child is identified as being at risk for reading failure at a community screening, NBS experts will provide specific feedback to the family on activities and books that can improve the child’s early literacy knowledge.

NBS also offers engaging parenting sessions in the North Florida community that will provide parents additional tips on how to further strengthen their child’s early literacy skills.

What are the most common factors that can contribute to reading failure?

While reading problems occur across all races, ethnicities, and socioeconomic levels, and in all written languages, there are specific risk factors:

  • Family history of dyslexia or other learning disabilities
  • Low parental reading level
  • Preschool language disorder
  • Dual language learning environment
  • Attentional, behavioral, or emotional problems
  • Lack of exposure to rich language and print materials

Is there any data showing the benefits of early intervention with the issues that can lead to reading difficulty? (either through Nemours or other sources)

Evidence is overwhelming that the foundation for successful reading is built in the early years, when a young child’s brain is highly responsive, adaptable, and attuned to learning language. NBS builds on this evidence by beginning its literacy work at an early age. This is the most effective preventive action against reading failure. In fact, if a child is not reading at grade level by the end of first grade, that child has only about a 10% chance of reading at grade level by the end of fourth grade.

The impact of the NBS approach has been remarkable:

  • Tens of thousands of pre-kindergarteners have been screened on early literacy skills, with thousands of at-risk children receiving NBS intensive educational instruction
  • Two-thirds of participating at-risk children who have received the NBS educational instruction have moved to the typical range in their reading readiness skills
  • At-risk pre-kindergarteners completing the NBS intensive educational instruction gain an average of 114% on their reading readiness scores
  • The majority of the at-risk children who have received NBS instruction continue to display strong reading performance into the early elementary school grades

Program results have been presented in peer-reviewed presentations and scientific/academic journals.

How does BrightStart! work with educators?

To date, over 350 early childhood educators have been trained to implement NBS processes and tools in their own classrooms, and they are achieving results comparable to, if not better than, NBS’s own original data. By building early childhood systems capacity, an additional nearly 12,000 children are benefiting from NBS tools in 2012.

Information about early literacy screening opportunities in North Florida is located on the NBS website and Facebook page. Interested parents can also contact Angela McDermott at (904) 697-5125 to receive more detailed information about dates and locations for early literacy screenings in the area.

Take this free opportunity to get your child off to a bright start today! And thank you, Angela, for sharing this helpful information with us!

Nemours BrightStart!

Elizabeth grew up in St. Louis, Missouri. She moved to Jacksonville in 2012 after visiting during winter and falling in love with the climate, people and laid-back atmosphere. She never plans to leave! She lives in Mandarin with her Jacksonville native husband, their daughter, three cats, a dog and a fire-bellied toad. Elizabeth enjoys working from home as a freelance writer and family photographer. She has written for "The Huffington Post," "What To Expect" and been featured on top parenting sites across the web. Her photography appears in the National Geographic book, "Getting Your Shot: Stunning Photos, How-To Tips and Endless Inspiration From The Pros."



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