ORGANIZATIONS REPRESENTED: Community Volunteers, Family Support Network of Central Carolina, Greensboro Housing Authority, Guilford County Schools, High Point Housing Authority, Reading Connections, Say Yes Guilford, United Way of Greater Greensboro, YMCA Greensboro
COMMUNITY PROBLEM: At least 35% of children in Guilford County enter kindergarten without the literacy skills needed to be on track for grade-level reading by third grade. (Guilford County Schools: Pathway to Postsecondary Education and Career, Schoolhouse Partners, 2015)
CHALLENGE GOAL: Identify assets and gaps in early literacy programs/skills.
READY/READY FRAMEWORK ELEMENT ADDRESSED: SUPPORTIVE FAMILIES > Empowered & Engaged Families > Support learning and literacy at home
PERSPECTIVES ENGAGED: Directors of early literacy programs, heads of local public libraries, directors of early education centers/family childcare homes in order to understand what early literacy programs and practices currently exist.
ACTIONS TAKEN & ASSOCIATED BEST PRACTICES
Defined the local problem: Decided to focus on birth to age 5; used Milestones of Early Literacy Development (PDF) as a developmental framework; reviewed local kindergarten readiness/early literacy data (PDF) and qualitative family data; reviewed The Colorado Literacy Framework (PDF) and Campaign for Grade Level Reading (website) materials as background.
Assessed fit and capacity of local efforts: Identified 29 programs with early literacy focus or components; distributed comprehensive online survey to learn about early literacy programs/practices; analyzed data and made recommendations.
WHAT WE LEARNED
Early Literacy Assets:
- High engagement with families when a child participates in programs
- Majority report focusing on key components of early literacy (reading for phonetic awareness, vocabulary, enjoyment, comprehension, writing/pre-writing).
Early Literacy Gaps:
- Small percentage of children birth through age five served by programs
- Programs tend to recruit via word-of-mouth and may not reach children who need services most.
- Most programs report excess capacity and no waiting lists.
- Programs not offered at times/places convenient for families.
- Most programs surveyed do not use an early literacy curriculum.
- Only 50% conduct formal assessment of the child’s progress.
Early Childhood System: Data collection challenging due to lack of data or no response; lack of early literacy network/system (or definition of which organizations/sectors focus on early literacy programs)
- Developed survey and collected baseline data about early literacy programs.
- Make early literacy and grade-level reading a community priority.
- Build internal capacity with current programs and scale to meet need.
- Implement proactive recruitment strategies based on who most needs services.
- Embed early literacy programming where families with young children congregate (i.e. school buildings, waiting rooms, recreation centers, laundromats, parks, faith communities, etc.)
- Develop a Literacy Network focused on shared professional development in four key areas: participant assessment; program assessment (data collection/analysis); early literacy curriculum; and cultural sensitivity/appropriateness of materials.