All parents want their children to succeed in school. But many parents-especially those with limited English proficiency or low literacy skills-are unsure what they can do to help their children learn.
The Agenda for Children Literacy Initiative educates parents of children newborn to age 7 about how to support their child's language and literacy development so their child will enter school ready to learn how to read and write. Developing these essential skills are critical to academic and career success.
Learning to read requires mastery of oral language, an ability to identify print words, and basic comprehension skills. This process begins during a baby's first weeks of life. A mother who talks to her baby teaches her child how to communicate, and stimulates brain development. Young children immersed in rich language are less likely to have reading difficulties in the primary grades, and therefore are more likely to succeed in school.
New research has revealed that "a child who does not have a large and fluent vocabulary will have difficulty with every aspect of reading, from recognizing and sounding out words to making sense of a story or a set of written directions." 1
The Literacy Initiative targets families living in Cambridge public housing because low-income and minority students have shown a decade-long pattern of underachievement in the city's public school system.
Literacy Initiative programs work because they empower parents to get involved in their children's education from birth onward. While traditional early childhood literacy programs often minimize parents' role as educator, the Literacy Initiative promotes the message that parents are a child's first and primary teacher of language, and play an important role in school success. This message resonates with parents living in Cambridge public housing, many of whom are recent immigrants and speak English as a second or third language.
The Literacy Initiative has four programs. Two programs are devoted to educating parents and family childcare professionals about oral language development and how to read interactively with children. The third program focuses on distributing books and materials to children and families. Finally, the Literacy Ambassadors program trains residents how to engage their peers in early literacy activities.
- Parent Education Activities
- Professional Development Activities
- Book Distribution
- Literacy Ambassadors
Evaluation efforts are focused on strengthening and improving Literacy Initiative programming.
The Literacy Initiative has been awarded more than $338,500 in grant funding since it was launched in 2001.
The Literacy Initiative received two prestigious awards in 2004.
1 New Standards Speaking and Listening Committee. (2001). Speaking & Listening for Preschool through Third Grade. Washington D.C: National Center on Education and the Economy and University of Pittsburgh.