Cincinnati Kids’s physician develops studying readiness device younger youngsters


In “The Reading House”, small children find a colorful side that shows a room with lots of toys. There is a truck, a bear and a duck.

In not too long a time, your child’s pediatrician could point to the toy truck on the page and ask your 3-year-old, “What else rhymes with trucks on these pages?” The doctor will also ask the child to show them the cover of the book, point to letters, and see where words are on the pages.

“The Reading House” is both a children’s book and a new tool that pediatricians can use to identify literacy problems in preschoolers. This assessment only takes about five minutes and can help parents and early childhood educators change your child’s life. The book is already available to pediatricians at low cost. (It is not available for families.)

Dr. John Hutton of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and his team developed the tool. It fills a void in pediatric care, he said.

“While developmental screening is a mainstay of pediatric practice, there isn’t an established standard for assessing reading readiness and identifying children at risk early on,” Hutton said. Often this type of assessment of literacy is left to the teachers. And that is, it happens after the child is enrolled in school.

Hutton, director of the Reading and literacy center at Cincinnati Children’s is the founder of Blue Manatee Press, the publisher / distributor of “The Reading House,” but receives no salary or other compensation for the role. The book means reading help for young children can come sooner, he said.

“The Reading House” helps the screener measure the core skills that preschoolers typically develop. Including:

  • Vocabulary.
  • Rhyme.
  • Alliteration.
  • Parts of a book.

According to Cincinnati Children’s, achievement levels are measured for ages 3-4 and 4-5.

The 70 children who participated in clinical research with The Reading House enjoyed it, Hutton said.

“They don’t even realize they’re being screened. It’s very engaging with the kid.”

The book is designed so that a doctor or teacher can give the book to the child’s parent or guardian once the child’s scores are determined. Parents can take it home, read, and use it to help the child practice reading and writing skills. Pediatricians can use their reviews to talk to families about what else they can do to prepare their child for reading. Answers could be to enroll the child in preschool, practice at home, get a library card, or make regular contact with pediatricians.

For the kids, the work (and fun) starts a year or two before they go to kindergarten, which provides time to improve their reading and writing skills.

Tiana Henry, a Cincinnati children’s community engagement specialist who oversees the Imagination Library and the medical center’s Reach Out and Read programs, said her daughter enjoyed the book. Henry’s daughter read The Reading House as part of an early screening process but was not in the actual study.

“We always try to motivate parents to read to their child as early as possible so that their child is prepared for the start of kindergarten,” said Henry. “The Reading House is not just a fun book for the child, it also shows parents their child’s strengths and weaknesses so they can work on these areas at home.”

Dr.  John Hutton, director of the Reading and Literacy Center at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, developed a reading readiness assessment tool for very young children.

Hutton and his team worked with 70 healthy children from different socio-economic backgrounds for their study.

In addition to using The Reading House, the researchers scanned the children’s brains.

They found that children who had a thinner cortex on the left side of the brain were likely to have lower scores when they rated “The Reading House”. Those with a thicker cortex on the left had higher scores. Hutton said a thicker cortex, especially in left-sided areas that aid language and reading, is associated with higher skills that predict reading outcomes.

“By screening early during visits to children’s clinics, especially practices for disadvantaged families, we can hopefully take effective measures to help children better prepare for kindergarten and improve reading results – literally” shaping their brains for reading ” . “

Interventions include, for example, promoting reading and writing skills at home, enrolling in preschool, or even obtaining a library card.

Hutton recommends the assessment for children around the age of 3, in part because well-vetted visits for children of that age allow a little more time to see a pediatrician, as the children at 3 years old don’t get any shots.

Dr. Thomas DeWitt, study co-author and attending physician for Cincinnati Children’s Division of General and Community Pediatrics, said the book will improve life outcomes for children. “Timely identification (of reading problems) and intervention ultimately means that more children have a more positive and successful early childhood experience, which can lay the foundation for continued success in school and life.”