Mecklenburg County families can give their children a head start on literacy before they ever enter a classroom by using their cellphones.
Read Charlotte, a nonprofit devoted to closing the literacy gap in Mecklenburg County, announced a text messaging service, Ready4K, is now available for parents to provide information needed to build children’s literacy skills by the time they start kindergarten.
“We believe this could be a game changer for Charlotte-Mecklenburg kids and families,” said Executive Director Munro Richardson. “In a survey last year, Read Charlotte found that very few families clearly understand what children need to be ready for school. Ready4K could be part of the solution.”
Ready4K, which is the first research-based text message program for preschool parents, is designed to help parents prepare their children for kindergarten. Each week during the school year, parents receive three texts about important kindergarten readiness skills, including tips and facts, such as suggesting bath time is a great time to start literacy training.
The specific tips and advice increase in difficulty and complexity over time and new topics are introduced once foundational skills have been covered.
The text messages, which were developed at Stanford University and are available in both English and Spanish, are based on child development research and linked to state educational standards.
Families can text READCLT to 70138 to sign up for the program, which is free apart from any feeds for text messages from the mobile phone service.
In family focus groups at two CMS Title I elementary schools in January, families told Read Charlotte they use text messaging services on their phones and that texts are included in their mobile service plans.
This is the first large-scale implementation of Ready4K in the Carolinas. It is currently being used statewide in Georgia and Florida, as well as other cities like Dallas and San Francisco.
Read Charlotte has taken a strong interest in seeking to provide parents with the skills needed to boost their child’s literacy skills, as well sets up a “pillar” system that starts the language and literacy development process from birth.
Researchers discovered substantial differences between young children’s home learning experiences and found many existing parenting programs are ineffective, as most programs try to rapidly change complex parenting behaviors over a short period of time.
They realized breaking down the approach into small steps was easier to achieve and built a continued mechanism of encouragement over a longer period of time. Plus, about 98 percent of cellphone users can access texts, so the program was easy to scale and is inexpensive.
What’s most important is the program has proven to be effective.
Parents who received Ready4K messages engaged far more frequently in learning activities at home with their children than parents who did not receive the texts, according to a San Francisco study. Ready4K parents also were more involved at school, according to teachers in the study. The study predicted children of parents who received Ready4K texts gained two to three additional months of learning in important areas of literacy.
Ready4K is funded through a grant from Read Charlotte’s Transformation Fund. In support of Read Charlotte’s goal of doubling the percentage of third grade students reading on grade level by 2025, the organization’s Transformation Fund promotes innovation, collaboration, and seeds new programs to address unmet early literacy needs across Mecklenburg County.
Visit www.ready4k.com for more information.