The Yale Child Study Center is teaming up with Scholastic to study the intersection of literacy and health.
“That’s the goal, to bring together Scholastic’s focus on literacy, books, and narrative with the focus that we have at the child study center on children’s behavioral health and children’s developmental health,” said Dr. Linda C. Mayes, the center’s director and the Arnold Gessell professor of child psychiatry, pediatrics, and psychology.
Scholastic announced the creation of the Yale Child Study Center-Scholastic Collaborative for Child & Family Resilience last week. Organizers hope it will serve as a forum for researchers and teachers to join with those in the health care field along with families and community members to work toward improving academic and mental health outcomes. They expect to work across several different education sectors, including early-childhood education and social and emotional learning to promote literacy.
But Mayes stresses that when they say literacy they mean much more that helping children to read.
“We mean children’s capacity to tell stories, to create a narrative that has a past, a present, and a future, to use those stories to learn about themselves, their family, their place, and we deeply believe that that capacity is not only something that can be developed but is also very much a part of health,” said Mayes.
While literacy and health might seem like an unusual pairing, Mayes looks at health beyond a child’s physical well being to examine things such as how a child manages his or her emotions.
“If children are, for example, really, really stressed or overwrought, they’re not learning so well,” said Mayes. “I think of health more broadly than just being illness-free. It’s much more about developmental health.”
One of the first initiatives launched under the collaborative is Discover Together: Brownsville, an effort to support the literacy and social and emotional learning of families with young children in the urban Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y.
This program was inspired by a similar program the Yale Child Study Center, Scholastic, and local partners launched in the rural community of Grundy, Tenn., called Discover Together. It supports literacy as a key part of health and emotional wellness by providing resources designed to help multigenerational families build social connections and resilience.
“We want to ensure that every child and family has what they need to shape their own stories, reframing adverse circumstances and envisioning the brightest futures imaginable,” said Greg Worrell, the president of Scholastic Education, in a news release. “By connecting literacy and health, and bringing the community into the education experience, children and their families will benefit.”
Mayes says she will consider the collaborative a success if it’s able to get the Discover Together model adopted in other communities along with developing materials accessible to teachers, parents, and children about young people’s mental health. She also hopes the collaborative will lead to the development of a curriculum about social and emotional learning that integrates brain science and a cross-disciplinary training program for educators and those in publishing.
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A version of this news article first appeared in the Early Years blog.