Screening helps catch reading problems early

Nemours BrightStart is free to parents, preschools

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - It can be nearly impossible for parents to know their child has a learning problem before he or she starts school, but nearly one-third of this country's children do have trouble reading, which can lead to serious problems down the road.

There's a little-known, free program that has screened about 13,000 preschoolers in the area at day care centers, libraries and churches since 2005.

Nemours BrightStart visits places like Little Britches Day Care and screens preschool children for literacy delays. Experts say finding a reading problem early can have a profound affect on the rest of a child's life.

"We know from research that if children start first grade behind their peers, there's a really good chance that they're not going to catch up," said Maureen Saunders, of Nemours BrightStart.


Parents like Stuart and Caitlyn Baxley were shocked to learn their 4-year-old, Jayden, was behind on his reading skills.

"I was kind of mad at myself because I hadn't paid more attention, I guess, read more books, or talked with him more," Stuart Baxley said. "I thought that I had let him down."

Catching up is not a problem for Jayden, who is now 5. After being screened at Little Britches last fall, he's already on pace with his classmates. Jayden's parents were also given materials to work at home with him.

According to BrightStart's research, since the program started, two-thirds of the children who complete their intervention program move into the average range.

"If BrightStart hadn't come into Little Britches, I don't know what we would have done," Caitlyn Baxley said. "It's been amazing. I think every parent, every parent should have this program."

The program is run with private funding and uses no taxpayer dollars. To have your child screened, there are opportunities all around greater Jacksonville. Visit BrightStart online at or itsĀ Facebook page to learn more.

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