12/04/13 — Goldsboro Pediatrics to focus on child literacy

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Goldsboro Pediatrics to focus on child literacy

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on December 4, 2013 1:46 PM

Parents, turn off that TV, put down the electronic devices and talk to your child.

It just may make all the difference in their reading scores and keep them from dropping out of school, says Dr. David Tayloe, founder of Goldsboro Pediatrics.

The physician is working on a campaign through his practice to promote "face-to-face talking with preschool children" throughout the community.

"My main focus within our practice is to see what we can do improve the school readiness of at-risk children," he said. "I honestly think all this technology is making school readiness worse. Parents just do not spend enough quality time with their children to assure optimal early brain and language development."

The statistics are alarming, he said.

Way too many children enter kindergarten with speech and language skills far below the expected levels, and by the time they get to third grade, only one-third to one-half are reading at grade level, he said.

Tayloe said he has growing concerns about the poor reading scores and dismissed any excuses made by state officials.

"They try to sugarcoat it by saying standards are higher," he said. "But if a third-grader's not reading at grade level and about one-third drop out before they graduate, and we're interested in child outcomes, that's about the worst outcome a family can experience -- a child dropping out of school."

Dr. Craig McFadden, assistant superintendent for accountability/student services with Wayne County Public Schools, said the standards have changed over the years and the real casualties are the students.

"Approximately 1,600 students enter ninth grade each year. (The district) graduates about 1,200 students every year," he said. The average loss of 400 students over that four-year period, categorized as dropouts, impacts the district's graduation rate.

Educators are not the only ones interacting with the children, though, he said.

Schools are limited by a number of things, including the fact that students are only there about six hours a day. And primary care practices like Goldsboro Pediatrics spend even less time with school children, something like 15 minutes a visit, maybe three or four times a year.

Tayloe suggests the responsibility for school readiness must begin with those raising the youngest segment of the population -- the parents.

The number of words a child hears his parents say in the first two years of life will determine his or her reading ability in third grade, he said. Statistically, those from more well-to-do or better educated families will hear 3 million words by the time they start school, as compared with the poorer segment, which hears markedly fewer words.

Likewise, when the TV is on, adults stop talking. While the physician said there is not yet be research to support that, it stands to reason that the effects of smart phones, video game boxes, iPads and laptops all pull the parents' attention away from that child. Reading is just one opportunity parents have to talk face-to-face with their children every day, he said. Others include shared meal and snack times, bath time, playing games together and interactive outdoor activities and even interactive media activities.

Tayloe said the challenge now is to collectively empower the families of at-risk preschool children to improve the school readiness of youngsters.

And McFadden agreed that Goldsboro Pediatrics is a viable place to begin the effort, since 11,695 or approximately 59.6 percent of the school students are reportedly in the database for a primary care physician. Of those, 9,847, are part of the Goldsboro Pediatrics network.

"Since we are the only pediatric practice in Wayne County, the vast majority of the children who enter the Wayne County Public Schools have been in our practice since birth," Tayloe said. "How do we get these parents who are poorly educated, not much family support, to realize that when they're awake they're supposed to be talking to that child?"