Local families demo text message literacy program

(Teton County, Wyo.) - This past spring, parents of nearly two dozen 4-year-olds in Head Start and preschool classes in Teton and Sublette counties took part in an early literacy text messaging pilot program via a partnership among the University of Wyoming Literacy Research Center and Clinic, CEPA Labs at Stanford University and the Children’s Learning Center. This fall, the program is poised to go statewide as part of many preschool, Head Start and library offerings. The program provides parents with three text messages a week. The texts offer ways for parents to engage in early literacy activities as part of their daily routines -- for example, asking their children to name letters and letter sounds on a shampoo bottle during bath time. Benjamin York, a graduate student at Stanford University, and Susanna Loeb, a professor at Stanford, developed the texting program. After the original eight-month Stanford study, it was shown to increase parental engagement in home literacy activities and encourage parents to ask teachers questions. Most importantly, the children who participated scored higher on a literacy assessment. Jorge Moreno, the father of a 4-year-old Head Start student at the Children’s Learning Center in Teton County, was one of the parents who tried the program with his son, Jayden. “He was finding out the letter sounds, and it was a review of what he was studying in school,” Moreno said. “On top of that, it was encouraging us to start practicing reading with our kids.” “We know, from evidence, that student achievement is highly correlated with strong family partnerships with learning,” said Dana Robertson, executive director of UW’s Literacy Research Center and Clinic (LRCC). “The parents or caregivers are the first teacher of the child. The kinds of opportunities that are provided in the home correlate right with the types of achievements we see in school.” Isabel Zumel, assistant director of the Teton County Library, and Leticia Liera, director of Head Start for the Children’s Learning Center, read about Stanford’s program, which is multilingual, and called upon the LRCC to implement it in Wyoming. The program was made possible with funding from the John P. Ellbogen Foundation, the Charles T. Trover Family Foundation, and the Donne and Sue Fisher Fund for the Advancement of Literacy. The three-month initial implementation wrapped up this past spring, and the early results are resoundingly positive. The program is cost-effective, and Liera and Zumel hope all the Head Start programs and public libraries in the state, as well as many preschools, will adopt it in the coming school year. Enrollment will begin in August, with the first texts going out in September. *Feature Photo: h/t Teton County Library / Pitchengine Communities* #buckrail #news