Editor’s Note: This is the second installment in a series featuring Vroom.
“The foundation for successful society is built in early childhood,” so says Dr. John Shonkoff of The Center for the Developing Child at Harvard University. This quote speaks to the latest scientific research showing the first five years of life are a critical time for brain development. By talking, reading, and singing, parents and caregivers are helping to build connections in the brain that will affect their children’s lives forever.
The latest brain science shows us that these early years are critically important. In fact, the learning that occurs in the first five years of life determines the architecture of the brain for all future learning. In the Suncoast region, 40 percent of our children cannot read proficiently by the end of third grade. We are working to change that number, to make more of our children successful. In order to make a significant difference in the reading scores of our third-graders, their education needs to start at birth. The Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading wants to empower parents by giving them the knowledge and understanding of the important role they play as their child’s first teacher.
We recently posted a blog about Vroom. Vroom was designed to share the science of early brain development in new ways so that all children have the chance to become thriving adults. One of the tools Vroom provides is an app that supports early literacy by turning shared moments among parents and their children into brain-building activities. This app, developed by the Bezos Family Foundation, translates groundbreaking science into everyday language and pairs it with actionable, accessible tips that encourage positive interaction between parents and children. For the past several months we have been piloting the use of the Vroom app in Manatee and Sarasota counties.
Alicia Chalmers and Linda Gould approached organizations and locations in both counties, expressing our desire to have 300 “Vroom Pioneers.” The research shows us that children from low-income families often do not have the same academic achievement as their peers from moderate or high-income families. For this reason, we focused our initial recruitment efforts to include the organizations and locations serving low-income families in Manatee and Sarasota County. We partnered with A New Beginning Preschool, Eternity Temple Church, Light of the World International Church, NCAA Headstart, Manatee Memorial Hospital, MCAA Healthy Families Parents and Teachers, Sarasota Housing Authority, Sarasota Memorial Hospital and the Sarasota Health Department.
The Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (SCGLR) team worked with each of these organizations and put together a plan on how to introduce parents and caregivers to Vroom. Our team members set up Vroom booths at each location at the times we felt would be most convenient for the parents and caregivers. In some cases, the SCGLR team returned to the location several times in order to reach as many families as we could. At each location, we spoke to the parents and caregivers about the importance of the first five years for brain development, and shared information about Vroom. Interested parents and caregivers were encouraged to download the Vroom app, and agree to a series of surveys, making them official Vroom Pioneers. Due to the generosity of The Patterson Foundation we were able to incentivize the pilot program, providing a Walmart gift card for each completed survey.
Before long, the results of the surveys began to show us in no uncertain terms the value of parents becoming familiar with science of early brain development. We began to hear stories of increased positive interactions between parents and their children. Vroom Pioneers continue to report observing increased skills in their children, and increasing delight with the results they are experiencing.
Next in the series: Sharing some of the results from the Vroom Pilot.