East Tennessee State University

East Tennessee State University

NLD ID #87845

Contact Information

1276 Gilbreath Drive
Johnson City, TN 37604

Primary Contact

Karen Schetzina

(423) 384-2084


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Program Overview

The ETSU Department of Pediatrics has significant experience supporting early literacy in children and providing multigenerational education in partnership with the Department of Teaching and Learning and Niswonger Children’s Hospital under the auspices of the newly-established Center for Healthy Children and Families. ReadNPlay for a Bright Future: One of the existing collaborative initiatives of the Center for Healthy Children and Families is called ReadNPlay for a Bright Future, and it aims to support literacy as well as healthy nutrition, active lifestyles, safety, and well-being among families with children. A multi-level, multi-component approach is being used, including engagement of community stakeholders, dissemination of educational tools and provider training in clinical settings, bimonthly family group meetings and periodic community events, and use of a coordinated social marketing campaign. Currently, ReadNPlay Book Bags designed by early childhood students at ETSU containing an age-appropriate selection of children's books, reading guides, props for shared reading and interactive activities are being used bimonthly with family groups to enhance literacy. Research suggests that teaching parents how to effectively engage in shared storybook reading with their children increases vocabulary development (Senechal, 2001). Several studies show that the use of literacy bags in schools strengthens the partnership between home and school, positively impacts the home literacy environment, and increases children’s vocabulary and story comprehension (Brand, Marchand, Lilly, & Child, 2014; Zeece & Wallace, 2009; Rowe & Fain, 2008). Our bimonthly family group meetings include education specialists and students from ETSU who work with children while parents engage in discussions of a variety of parenting topics with health care providers and local community organization leaders. Meetings include Parent and Child Together (PACT) Time® so that parents and caregivers can continue to utilize books for shared reading and activities at home. B.E.A.R. Buddies Literacy Program (Being Engaged to Achieve Reading): Another existing program of the Center for Healthy Children and Families is the B.E.A.R. Buddies program offers reading mentors to elementary students in grades 1st -4th that have been identified to be approximately six months below reading level. High school student volunteers are trained to work with elementary school students using the Scholastic Brainstorm science-based curriculum. Mentor/mentee pairs meet weekly for approximately one hour either during the school day, program schedules permitting, or after school in a supervised setting. Students will be assessed by their respective school at the beginning, middle, and end of the school year to chart progress with the goal of increasing Grade Equivalency reading levels at least 8 months. This program is being conducted in cooperation with local school districts and the Boys and Girls Club. Following a successful pilot, plans have been made to expand the program in the region. Mentee reading levels are being evaluated at the beginning, middle and end of the year using the STAR Reading Tool for Johnson City Schools and similar standardized testing used by Kingsport schools and the Boys and Girls Club, with the goal of increasing Grade Equivalency reading levels at least 8 months. Students will be assessed for positive progress of grade equivalency (GE). Students who are the most behind are prioritized.

This program listing was last updated: September 17, 2023.

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Education services

  • Read and write better
  • Help my child learn