A small grant of $4,000 can improve the way reading is approached in a population that is often left behind—children of migrant workers.
In addition to the poverty that impacts many children in migrant families, a shorter school year (October through May) limits the number of days in a structured educational environment. In many cases, parents may not speak English in the home.
Through the Manatee Community Foundation’s investment , the Early Learning Coalition of Manatee County partnered with the Redlands Christian Migrant Head Start to engage these families in a national, evidence-based early literacy and parent engagement program called Raising a Reader.
Sharing the importance of daily book reading, Raising a Reader increases healthy brain development, parent-child bonding, and the early literacy that is essential for success in school and in life.
Redlands Christian Migrant Association’s childcare centers provide access to health screenings, early childhood education, and other services for low-income families in rural areas and migrant farm worker populations. Its model acknowledges that if the childcare centers are led by coordinators from the culture of the communities they serve, there will be more trust and greater success in early education. So Redlands Christian Migrant Association was a natural partner for the Raising a Reader Program.
Fourteen early-learning staff at the centers received training from The Early Learning Coalition of Manatee. Parents of preschoolers were invited to attend meetings about the importance of early literacy, “reading” books by telling a story with the pictures for parents with low literacy skills, and tools to encourage tapping into resources at the local library.
Fifty-two children received four books per week by way of weekly book rotation and distribution by classroom teachers. Pre and post-survey data showed that over the course of the program, the number of times participating children looked at books with someone in their household doubled from 2 days per week to 4 says per week and the amount of time spent reading books each day increased from 15 minutes to 22 minutes per day.
While Raising a Reader may not have tackled all of the literacy challenges in this population of students and families, the exposure to books and to the importance of reading is a critical step in building more trust and developing routines that become the norm in families.
Looking forward, we would like to see creative ways to encourage more parents to participate in the program and strategies to address the shorter school year. But we love to see positive movement, knowing that systemic challenges are tackled one step at a time.
The Manatee Community Foundation is a founding network weaver of the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.