Welcome to the BELLE Project

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

The Bellevue Project for Early Language, Literacy, and Education Success (the BELLE Project) 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. 

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.

Snapshot of our work

Video Interaction Project (VIP)

In 1999, we developed and began implementing a pediatric primary care parenting intervention, the Video Interaction Project (VIP)VIP is relationship-based intervention that provides parents with one-on-one sessions with an interventionist during their child’s routine pediatric check-ups (birth through age five).

 Through a series of studies, we have empirically shown that VIP has strong benefits for parents and children.  We continue to examine these effects throughout elementary school ages.

Given the effectiveness of VIP, we are currently adapting VIP for large-scale implementation as part of routine pediatric care.  We have begun providing VIP as part of routine care at Woodhull Medical Center in Brooklyn, NY, and have plans for continued expansion.  VIP is also a partner program of a NYC-wide early literacy initiative City’s First Readers funded by the New York City Council.

Click here for more information about VIP or visit the VIP website

StimQ: Cognitive Home Environment Questionnaire

Through our studies, we identified a need for a standardized, interview-based instrument to measure a family’s cognitive home environment.  We developed and standardized such an instrument, the StimQ, which is now available in both English and Spanish for use with parents of young children between five months and six years old.

For more information about the StimQ, click here.

Our research

Both within our lab and with our expert collaborators, we examine many aspects of infant and child development, including:

  • Effectiveness of parent intervention programs, such as VIP
  • Effects of media exposure during infancy and early childhood
  • Effects of stress and adversity on parenting and child development
  • Prevention and understanding of childhood obesity
  • Effects of the linguistic environment on child development
  • Parent-child interactions

We have used a variety of cutting-edge techniques to study these topics, including:

  • Behavioral assessment
  • Parent interviews
  • LENA
  • Near infrared spectroscopy (NIRS)
  • In-school assessment
  • Cortisol measurements

For more details about research click here.

Questions about our work

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 between birth and age five
  3. Parents want help with developmental issues when they come for well-child visits
  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!

For More Information

If you are a parent of a young infant who is receiving general pediatric care at Woodhull Medical Center and have questions or would like more information about VIP, please call 718 963 8184.

If you are a student (undergraduate or graduate) and are interested in volunteering or working with the BELLE Project, please send an inquiry to AT (Note: We often have a high need for Spanish/English bilingual volunteers and interns).

If you are a researcher or medical professional and are interested in more information, please reach out directly to the Project Director (Dr. Adriana Weisleder) at 212 562 2522.