Bright Spots are written and produced by the Campaign to showcase the work in Grade-Level Reading communities to make progress on school readiness, school attendance and summer learning by 2016. Continue reading below or download a PDF version.
The preschooler tosses rocks toward a circle chalked onto the playground pavement. “How many did you get inside the circle?” her mother asks. “One, two, three!” the child responds. “How many are outside the circle?” asks the mom. “One, two!” says the child. “How many rocks total?” the mom asks. “Five!” says the child.
During this 1½-minute videotaped exchange, written words pop up showing the vocabulary and concepts being taught in addition to counting: Inside. Outside. Total.
So goes a typical short video emailed free to families in and around Reading, Pennsylvania, who participate in ReadyRosie, which promotes school readiness by providing an online parent engagement tool that models fun and easy literacy and math activities for young children.
“It’s a new way to connect with families at home and help them build a child’s vocabulary so the child is kindergarten ready,” says Stella Leonti, education director for United Way of Berks County, which oversees the local grade-level reading campaign, Ready. Set. READ!
Available in 18 states, ReadyRosie launched in Reading and three other Berks County school districts in 2015. By April, almost 300 people were watching the videos, via mobile phone or computer, in two districts, according to monthly data reports.
It gives me ideas of learning opportunities,” says Sandra Reider, of Mohnton, Pennsylvania, who cares for her 4-year-old granddaughter. “They’re easy to follow. Because it’s a video, you watch the interaction between an adult and child.”
Families with children up to age 2 receive an email containing several videos two days per week. Families with older children up to age 6 receive an email five days per week. The emails also are available to early childhood providers and others working with young children.
Noting that Reading is one of the nation’s poorest cities, Michael Saylor, an administrator in a neighboring school district says, “We’re dealing with poverty and we’re underserved when it comes to preschool, so ReadyRosie is a really nice option to be able to offer.”
Because the videos model the activities, “parents do not have to be literate themselves to do them with their children. Research shows that kids need that rich vocabulary as they’re coming into school so as they approach text, they have the necessary background.”
Each school district purchased ReadyRosie, some with support from Ready. Set. READ! “This is a new and exciting way to partner,” says Patricia Giles, chief impact officer at United Way, which is encouraging the county’s 14 other school districts to participate.
Because many children arrive in kindergarten without school readiness skills or early childhood program experience, Giles says, “Over the last year, we have expanded to work with children much earlier and particularly on parent engagement.”
The videos and accompanying resources are aligned with the Common Core State Standards and Pennsylvania’s early childhood learning standards. “That was important,” says Giles. “We had to make sure it was educationally sound.”
Another draw is that each email includes an English and Spanish video of the same activity. While Berks County’s population is predominantly white, Reading’s school population is predominantly Hispanic. “We are always looking for resources and opportunities to reach Spanish-speaking households,” says Giles.
To address a common challenge — reaching low-income families with young children — Ready. Set. READ! is spreading the word about ReadyRosie at kindergarten roundups and with kindergarten teachers, child care providers, pediatricians, community action agencies and WIC, the government health and nutrition program for women, infants and children.
Two unintended consequences of ReadyRosie have cropped up. Families are watching both the Spanish and English videos, which feature real families and are not scripted. “Culturally and linguistically, this allows for cross-learning,” says Giles. “And the kids want to watch the videos to see other kids doing fun activities. We’re trying to get to the parents, but now the kids are starting to drive the process.”
For more information, contact Patricia Giles at 610-685-4567 or PATGILES@uwberks.org. Photos: Ready. Set. READ! Publication Date: Summer 2015. To nominate a community to be featured as a Bright Spot, please contact Betsy Rubiner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What does your community to promote school readiness? Share your experience in the comments box!
Want more? Check out:
- Houston, Texas's peer-to-peer tutoring to encourage reading.
- Wallowa County, Oregon's work to promote health and early literacy.