Ann Hazzard, associate professor of pediatrics
at the School of Medicine and clinical psychologist at Hughes Spalding
Children’s Hospital, is leading an effort to better prepare
children at Hughes Spalding for preschool.
The literacy intervention program, known as “Focus On Four,”
is designed to introduce 4-year-old children to letters, sounds
and books while also pairing them and their families with volunteers
for eight weeks. The program will begin in June and target 30 families.
In 1994, Hazzard helped create the Hughes Spalding-based “Ready,
Set, Read!” literacy program, along with Emory pediatrician
Terri McFadden, and she hopes this new program will reach those
youngsters most at risk.
“There are a lot of factors and stressors in low-income families
that make children from those families more at risk for school failure,”
Hazzard said. “Often by the time a child gets to kindergarten
or first grade, an important piece of their brain development has
The program will specifically focus on children with mild learning
or language difficulties and those who lack exposure to books and
early learning activities.
Hazzard reported a previous study conducted at Hughes Spalding found
that many of the children’s parents were rarely read to when
they were children themselves. That often is a reason why many have
not integrated reading into their children’s lives.
“If listening and hearing the language and words in books
and getting excited about books hasn’t happened, it makes
it much more challenging for children and their teachers in kindergarten
and first grade,” she said. “Pediatricians are the most
natural professionals to intervene early and make contact with families.
They can play a major role in early intervention by including this
part of well-child care in comprehensive pediatric care.”
A screening instrument will be used to help identify 4-year-olds
in Hughes Spald-ing’s waiting rooms as they come for appointments.
This information will help determine which children are behind in
their pre-literacy skills. Volunteers then will meet with families
once each week to read to children and engage in many preschool-type
literacy activities. The program also aims to help parents enroll
their children in preschool and obtain library cards.
“This really emphasizes how Hughes Spalding is supporting
and giving back to all of the communities it serves,” said
Renee Shields, Ready, Set, Read! coordinator.
“Focus on Four” is sponsored in part by Hughes Spalding
with support by the Tiger Woods Foundation, Chick-fil-A Inc., the
Community Foundation of Atlanta and the Target Corp.
The Ready, Set, Read! program, designed to encourage parents to
read with their children, currently provides free books to about
7,500 children ages six months to 5 years who visit Hughes Spalding’s
Community volunteers of all ages are still needed for the Ready,
Set, Read! program. For more information or to become a volunteer,
please contact Shields at 404-616-6050, or Anita Gardner, volunteer
coordinator, at 404-616-5581. The program also accepts new and gently
used children’s books.