Posted: 8/04/23

Laredo Learns Launches New ‘Brain Bag’ Initiative to Help New Parents Meet Benchmarks for Kids


Laredo Learns logo

Becoming a new parent can be overwhelming, but a new collaboration led by Laredo Learns believes it’s all in the “Brain Bag.”

Laredo Learns and its community partners have created the Brain Bag as a resource filled with learning materials.  Included are guidance, parenting tips, online child development insights and prompts, and more.  New parents can consider the Brain Bag as a tool to help them ensure their children meet critical growth and learning benchmarks for their children.

Guillermo “Memo” Treviño, a local businessman and philanthropist who has helped spearhead the effort with community-based partners representing advocacy, business, medical and educational sectors, said the Laredo Learns goal is simple.

“We want Laredo to be a Learning City.  Just as we celebrate Laredo being the Number One Inland Port, we want to celebrate a commitment to learning that brightens our children’s futures, as well as that of our community.  With initiatives like the Brain Bag, we’re providing new parents with tools and resources that can help them to be the best parents possible, and to make sure their children meet benchmarks to succeed in school,” Treviño said.

He offered an example of interactions that the Brain Bag can help encourage.

“The Brain Bag will include children’s books to encourage positive adult-child interactions.  Texas ranks 49th in reading to children.  The simple act of reading with your child can pay enormous dividends in the future,” Treviño observed.

Dr. James O’Meara, Texas A&M International University Dean of the College of Education, who has also championed the initiative, said local resources in the bag are focused on four critical areas in children’s development.

“Texas-based research has found that these four strategies are critical to school readiness:  Sufficient Household Resources, Good Health and Development, Positive Adult-Child Interactions and Enriching Early Learning Experiences. These are all linked to the Texas School Readiness Dashboard.

“The Brain Bag will be a recurring resource for parents and includes the CDC’s Brain Development Tracker and access to a bilingual smartphone app, Bright by Text.  This can help parents track milestones, alert them to the need for developmental screenings, and find out about local activities and events focused on healthy child development --- all in either English or Spanish,” Dr. O’Meara explained.

“In Laredo, about 4,000 children are born annually.  Of that number, only 3%are screened, which is a key activity for optimizing a child’s health and kindergarten readiness. Post-Pandemic, we have seen a 20% drop in kindergarten readiness.  Through this partnership, we hope to see more babies screened, and provided the assistance and resources needed to get them ready for kindergarten and healthy developmental milestones,” O’Meara said.

Treviño said that while the Brain Bag is a catalyst for the larger effort to Laredo becoming a Learning City, the broad-based community support that its development has fostered is indeed encouraging.

“For us truly to be a Learning City, we will need to all band together with a shared vision of a better and brighter Laredo. Laredo Learns appreciates the leadership shown by Laredo Medical Center in providing our initial Brain Bags.  This initiative and the eagerness of our partners have shown us that this vision is indeed shared.  We believe we can succeed and continue to elevate Laredo to continue to realize its tremendous potential,” Treviño concluded.

Partners in the effort include Laredo Medical Center, City of Laredo Health Department, Doctors Hospital, Laredo Public Library, Gateway Community Health Center, the Consulate General of México, SCAN, Laredo Economic Development Corporation, Laredo Chamber of Commerce, Laredo Independent School District, United Independent School District, Head Start/Early Head Start, Laredo College, and Texas A&M International University.

Jorge Leal, Chief Executive Officer of Laredo Medical Center, explained how reading is central to a child’s healthy development.

“Laredo Medical Center delivered joy to the families of the 3,000 babies born at our hospital last year. Beyond the clinical care, we support Laredo Learns and we are proud to take the lead with the implementation of the Brain Bag initiative because we know that reading begins with parents,” said Leal, “By encouraging parents to read to their children at an early age, they will nurture their children’s reading proficiency and help them achieve early academic success.”

Laredo Learns grew from a report prepared by the Learning City@ Laredo Pre-Natal-3 Project. 

That report, “Laredo Learns 2030:  Healthy Beginnings, Supported Families, High-Quality Early Care and Learning Report and Recommendations,” targets a goal of increasing the quality of and access to prenatal and post-partum health services for low-income mothers and health services for low-income infants and toddlers. It is located at: https://www.tamiu.edu/coedu/se_consulting_laredotx_report_final_hires.pdf 

Laredo Medical Center will prepare 250 Brain Bags a month, beginning in August and ending in December to distribute to moms who give birth at Laredo Medical Center. For additional details, contact: Priscilla Salinas, Director of Marketing and Business Development at Laredo Medical Center at  956.796.3223, or email priscilla_salinas@chs.net.


Celebrating the launch of the Laredo Learns “Brain Bag” Initiative are, left to right: Jimena Morales, representing Consul General of México in Laredo Juan Carlos Mendoza Sánchez; Melissa Cigarroa, District 3 Council Member, City of Laredo; Dr. James O’Meara, Dean, Texas A&M International University College of Education; Jorge González, Laredo Medical Center Chairman of the Board, Laredo Medical Center; Rosamaría Treviño and Mayor Victor Treviño; Jorge Leal, Laredo Medical Center Chief Executive Officer; Erika Martínez, City of Laredo Health Department Assistant Director; Guillermo “Memo” Treviño, Laredo Learns champion and philanthropist, and Priscilla Salinas, Laredo Medical Center Director of Marketing and Business Development.