The BELLE Project

Watch Dr. Dreyer discuss the importance of eliminating childhood poverty.

The Bellevue Project for Early Language, Literacy, and Education Success

There are often vast disparities in development, school readiness, and educational achievement between children from low-income families and children from middle/high-income families.  It is critical that these disparities be addressed in order to break the cycle of intergenerational transmission of poverty. The Bellevue Project for Early Language, Literacy, and Education Success (BELLE) is a multi-disciplinary behavioral research laboratory, under the leadership of Alan Mendelsohn, MD, whose primary goal is to adapt, develop and assess pediatric primary health care strategies for working with low-income families of very young children (age birth-5 years). These pediatric primary health care strategies are designed to promote parent-child interactions that will serve to enhance school readiness and long-term educational achievement; thus lessening poverty-related disparities in these domains.

Why Pediatric Primary Care?
Pediatric primary care is a unique platform for reaching at-risk, poor children population-wide prior to school entry for the following reasons:

  1. All children must have immunizations and screening to enter school
  2. There are 15 routine visits to the pediatrician from birth-5 years
  3. Parents want help with developmental issues when they come for well- child visits, and
  4. Interventions in primary care are very low cost when compared to other intervention strategies (such as home visitation).

Why Do We Work With Families of Very Young Children?
Intervening during the first five years before school entry is critical:

  1. Children’s brains develop rapidly during the first five years
  2. Early high quality experiences foster this brain development; early low quality experiences (e.g., television) can prevent optimal brain development
  3. Waiting for school entry is too late!

A Snapshot of Our Work:

The Video Interaction Project

  • Since 1999, we have been implementing and testing the effectiveness of a pediatric primary care parenting intervention called The Video Interaction Project (VIP)
  •  VIP is a relationship-based parenting intervention which builds on Reach out and Read, pushing the model of utilizing the pediatric primary care platform to promote school readiness in at-risk children.
  • In VIP, a child development specialist works with parents at every well-child visit to encourage critical interactions between parents and children through playing or reading together.
  • Core components of VIP: parent and infant/child videotaped together while playing or reading; parent then watches with child development specialist who identifies and reinforces strengths in the interaction; also includes the provision of books and toys as well as parenting pamphlets.

Building Blocks

  • Developed by Harris S. Huberman, MD, MPH
  • BB takes place from birth to 3 years. BB, like VIP, delivers a curriculum focused on supporting verbal interactions in the context of pretend play, shared reading and daily routines.
  • The BB curriculum is delivered through written pamphlets and learning materials that are mailed monthly to the family.
  • Core components of BB: newsletters focusing on positive parenting; learning materials (toys and/or books) provided; parent-completed Ages and Stages Questionnaires are provided to help parents become active observers of their child’s development.

Reach Out and Read

Our prior work documented impacts of Reach Out and Read, including:

  • Enhanced child vocabulary - Collaborative study with Mount Sinai School of Medicine
  • Enhanced reading aloud in multicenter collaborative study

Media exposure in young children

  • BELLE media research led by Dr. Alan Mendelsohn and Dr. Suzy Tomopoulos
  • Data collected in the context of the BELLE project regarding longitudinal media exposure and its relationship to child development outcomes has yielded many findings related to: (1) impacts of infant media exposure on toddler development, (2) trajectories of media exposure in early childhood; and (3) relationship between parent-child interactions and impacts of media exposure.

Obesity prevention

Providing input regarding parenting into innovative research conducted by investigators at NYU School of Medicine (MaryJo Messito, MD & Shonna Yin, MD) and Albert Einstein College of Medicine (Rachel Gross, MD)

  • Starting Early, PI’s MaryJo Messito, MD and Rachel Gross, MD
  • Greenlight, NYU PI Shonna Yin, MD as part of multisite collaboration

Parent-child interactions

  • StimQ: Measurement of the cognitive home environment through lab/office-based interview
  • Near Infrared Spectroscopy: Measurement of neurophysiological changes that might result from variations in parent-child interactions