Health First Sponsors School District’s Literacy Push ‘Thrive By Five’ That Begins at Birth

project has been years in the making

Leaders at Health First and the Health First Foundation lent a hand Monday packing bags of books, bibs and other materials that will eventually find their way into the busier hands of mothers with newborns leaving a maternity unit at Health First or another area hospital. Health First’s Dr. Timothy Laird and Cheyana Fischer (middle) are flanked by Health First Foundation’s Shona Price and Michael Seeley. (Health First image)

Hospital system’s sponsorship of Brevard Public Schools’ Thrive By Five initiative affirms leaders’ belief that literacy is critical for childhood development.

BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – Leaders at Health First and the Health First Foundation lent a hand Monday packing bags of books, bibs and other materials that will eventually find their way into the busier hands of mothers with newborns leaving a maternity unit at Health First or another area hospital.

The Brevard Public Schools’ Thrive By Five program emphasizes the importance of literacy beginning at birth, and connects parents to resources to get their kids ready for kindergarten at age 5.

The school system says the project has been years in the making, and when it approached Health First this summer for a partnership opportunity, Brevard’s leading health system signed on immediately to support it.

According to the the Heart of America Foundation, about 6 in 10 families living in poverty in the U.S. also do not have children’s books in their homes.

At the start of school, these children typically have a shallower vocabulary than their peers, and students who start school or fall behind their peers in reading make up the largest proportion of school dropouts.

Dr. Timothy Laird makes remarks at a news conference Monday inside the Brevard Public Schools’ Board of Education meeting space at the kickoff of the schools’ Thrive By Five initiative. (Health First image)

Speaking at a press conference Monday at the Brevard Public Schools’ administration building, Dr. Timothy Laird, Chief Medical Officer, Health First Medical Group, called the health system’s sponsorship commitment a privilege.

Health First’s own dedication to improving lives “starts on Day One with each new life born in a Health First hospital and continues as we support the wellness of our patients in pediatric and primary care offices.”

It’s the conclusion of the American Academy of Pediatrics, he said, that “reading regularly to young children stimulates optimal patterns of brain development and strengthens parent-child relationships at a critical time in development, which in turn builds language, literacy and social and emotional skills that last a lifetime.”

Chief Nursing Officer Cheyana Fischer waits to add a book to the Thrive By Five bag started by Dr. Timothy Laird, with Shona Price of the Health First Foundation behind her. (Health First image)

The school system has prepared 500 Thrive By Five reading and resource bags for immediate distribution. It plans to make 5,000 available each and every year, about the number of babies born to Brevard County parents annually.

“I’m proud of Health First for not only sponsoring Thrive By Five, but knowing that every mom and newborn are going to walk out of one of our hospitals with resources for literacy and well-being that they didn’t have yesterday,” said Cheyana Fischer, Chief Nursing Officer, Health First.

“I can’t wait to see what the impact will be in five years when these kids hit kindergarten.”

The schools’ Thrive by Five homepage hosts a variety of resources and helpful information for families in Brevard County.

“If we can get every toddler to be reading-ready by kindergarten, their chance, their opportunity, their trajectory for academic success soars to great heights,” said Mark Mullins, Superintendent, Brevard Public Schools.

To learn more about the Thrive by Five program, please visit BrevardSchools.org/ThrivebyFive. Visit HF.org/news and events to see more Health First in the news.

The Brevard Public Schools has prepared 500 Thrive By Five reading and resource bags for immediate distribution. It plans to make 5,000 available this year – roughly the number of babies born in Brevard County each year. (Health First image)
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