Equipping Parents to Know Their Child

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I recently took in my 3-year-old son, Frank, for a speech assessment in our home school district. He has been having some articulation problems and our pediatrician recommended that we take him in for the free speech therapy screening.

I sat around the table with Frank and three speech therapists.  They started by asking me questions about Frank’s overall development.

Does Frank understand the concept of three? (By this they meant not just can he count to three, but does he understand in any order and with various objects that three is always three).

Well, we have done many ReadyRosie activities like “The Number Stays the Same”, so I knew exactly how to answer that question!

Does Frank understand categories, for example if you said “let’s name types of fruit”, would he be able to say several things in the category of fruit?

Frank and I play “How Many Can You Name” in the car often, so I knew the answer to that question as well.

The questions continued….Can Frank “chime in” when reading a familiar story? Can he predict what would happen next in a story? If an object was hidden, could he describe it? Does he have an understanding of a “loud” and “soft” voice? ­ ALL of which I knew because they are ALL ReadyRosie activities we have done together, including “Chime In” at the doctor’s office waiting for our appointment.

The therapists were looking for key indicators in Frank’s development and I was able to answer, with confidence, every question.

The entire time she was asking these questions, I kept imagining how a parent would answer these questions without having done some of these specific things with their child.  Then, I kept wondering how they would have ever known to DO those specific things with their child.   I wouldn’t have if I had not been exposed to ReadyRosie.

ReadyRosie is not JUST about school readiness – it is about knowing WHO our children are – what they like, where they are at developmentally, and how they like to learn.  

The therapists ended our session by giving me a flyer for ReadyRosie.  They told me that they recommend ReadyRosie to all families who come in for speech assessments.  Frank heard that recommendation and let the therapists know that “we alweady watch weadywosie evewyday.”

Shared by Emily Roden, co-founder of ReadyRosie.  

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The Role of Formal and Informal Learning Experiences

During my fifteen years in education, I have realized that lessons on learning can be delivered in the most unexpected places.  Most recently, I got schooled during swim lessons.

For the past three years, my girls (ages 4 and 6) have taken a week or two of swim lessons at the beginning of summer.  Each year, we invest a good amount of money and hope in those lessons with the goal that our children will be successful swimmers throughout the rest of the summer.  And each year, we are proud of the accomplishments as our girls show off what they have learned with their teacher on the last day of class.

This year, we had the fortune of staying at a hotel with a swimming pool the week after swim lessons.  As a former member of my high school swim team (note that I used the word member and not star), I was eager to spend time in the water watching my girls demonstrate their new skills.  My excitement was short-lived when my girls preferred to hang on to my neck, play on the steps, or simply walk about the shallow end.

I was frustrated.  I was incredulous.  I knew they had the ability to swim, even if they couldn’t go very far, but they did not even want to try.   A time that was intended to be family fun quickly turned into crying chaos as I offered bribes, consequences, and anything else I could think of as I tried to get my daughters to swim.

Eventually, they complied and each swam a few distances according to her abilities.  But, despite my cheers and praise for what they had done, their smiles were diminished.

Later that evening, at dinner with my husband, I recalled a memory of a family vacation in the same city when I was close to the ages of my girls.   I remembered my parents saying that I was just tall enough to walk in the shallow end and I had played in the water for hours until my feet were raw.

And then it hit me.  My role as the mom was not to be the swim teacher.  My role was to extend the lessons they had learned from the teacher by providing many opportunities to be in the water, to be comfortable in the water, and to ENJOY the water.

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I realized that what I know and preach about literacy is also true for swimming and for most every type of learning.  While skills and formal learning opportunities are important, they do not create lifelong learners.  Confident learners begin in the shallow end where they experience hours of bonding and play with a more competent learner such as a parent or caregiver.

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In his book Raising Confident Readers, Dr. J. Richard Gentry states, “The early advantage – setting the foundations for success with reading at home and making learning to read natural and easy – comes through informal teaching.”  He adds, “Whether you enlist the help of a good preschool or go it alone, what is important is that your child gets the informal types of literacy…early in life.”

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Mem Fox advocates the power of informal learning in her book Reading Magic, “So let’s help kids learn to read by reading aloud to them often, whenever we can, to make familiar what was once unfamiliar.  Then let’s read aloud again.  And after that?  Well, we’ll read aloud!  And all the while, we’ll be playing those teaching-without-teaching, fooling-around, being-silly games.

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This is the mission of ReadyRosie.  To equip and inspire parents and caregivers to create the informal and enjoyable learning environments for young children to experience their first encounters with literacy and numeracy.

With the exciting push for every child to have access to formal learning experiences through Universal preK efforts, we cannot forget the important emphasis we need to be placing in providing every child with informal learning opportunities.  We know that high quality classroom learning is crucial, but so are informal bonding interactions that place learning in real world contexts.

Shared by Candis Grover, Director of Literacy/Spanish Development for ReadyRosie. cgrover@readyrosie.com.

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Is Math Talk a Missing Key to Literacy?

There is a problem with our country’s response to illiteracy but it’s not what you think.  Countless programs and politicians have rallied to eradicate the illiteracy rate in our country but very few have taken up the cause of illiteracy’s stepsister – innumeracy.  A recent study by Geary, Hoard, Nugent and Bailey showed that 1 in 5 adults are “innumerate”. In other words, 20% of the American work force does not possess basic math skills and, as a result, is not prepared for today’s modern jobs.  

What if the solution for increasing literacy rates in our country could actually be found in improving our mathematical talk?  Consider the type of thinking that is needed by third grade as children transition from “learning to read” to “reading to learn”:

- Describing, analyzing, and comparing. 

- Drawing conclusions.

- Identifying multiple perspectives for solving a problem.

- Constructing viable arguments and critiquing the reasoning of others.

Actually, the above phrases are from the MATH standards and yet, the same language is reflected in LITERACY standards.  Why?  The capacity for reasoning and thinking abstractly with math concepts is the same type of thinking that children need to logically comprehend complex texts.

Numeracy shares something else in common with literacy: it has to become a priority in the earliest time of a child’s life.  The same study mentioned above found that if a child is behind in math by 1st grade, he will not catch up.

This begs the question, “What can be done to PREVENT the achievement gap in both math and literacy?”   The answer is the same for early learning in both SUBJECT AREAS – early and powerful TALK.

The issue of “innumeracy” is not just about whether our children can count just as the issue of illiteracy is not simply a lack of knowing the alphabet.  Counting is such a small part of numeracy.  Problem-solving, mathematical language and communication skills, fact-based conclusions, abstract thinking, and categorizing concepts are all skills that are developed through mathematical talking.  Teachers and parents often report feeling less confident or equipped to engage in mathematical conversations as compared to literacy conversations.  Home studies by Barbarin showed language/early literacy mentioned 50 percent of the time and numeracy mentioned only 3.5 percent of the time.  The bottom line is, parents aren’t sure HOW to “talk math.”

Many turn to worksheets or flash cards to prepare their child for math. Instead, consider incorporating math into the context of everyday routines. Here are some examples:

  • Model how to set the table and make patterns: fork – plate – napkin. Ask questions like “What if two more guests came to dinner? How many more forks, plates, and napkins would we need? Can you set the table and show me?”
  • For birthday parties, find different ways to arrange the candles on the cake. For example, for a child’s 5th birthday start with 3 candles on top and 2 on bottom. Then explore other options, such as 1 candle on top and 4 on bottom and so forth. While it may seem silly, composing and decomposing numbers is a big part of developing a strong sense of number and problem solving.
  • At the grocery store, allow the child to weigh the produce.  Ask “Do you think the bag of apples will weigh more or less than the bag of kiwis?” Then, weigh and compare.Image

This is the goal of ReadyRosie, a new early childhood tech resource. It is not like any other online resource.  It is not a game.  It is not an online book.  It is a tool that models the way math and literacy conversations can take place in the most common occurrences of life.  Deep conceptual understanding with HUMAN interaction between parent and child. Our goal is to show teachers, parents, and caregivers that you don’t have to be a mathematician to raise a genius in the area of math. You don’t have to have an education degree to raise a profound reader or writer.  In fact, you don’t even have to know the right ANSWERS.  You just have to know how to ask the deeper QUESTIONS.  The child becomes the problem solver. Not just in that instance, but for life.  It will be the children who are problem solvers that will rise to the top academically – both in the areas of math and literacy.

Shared by Melissa Nast and Candis Grover, Directors of Math and Literacy/Spanish Development for ReadyRosie.

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What makes an EFFECTIVE initiative to reach families with school readiness???

In recent months, much media attention has been given to community outreach campaigns targeted at families.   At ReadyRosie, we believe in today’s families and we are in favor of any efforts designed to engage and equip them.  At the same time, we would like to encourage community and school decision makers to consider a few questions when deciding what vehicle will be used for reaching your target audience.

Before you decide to send books home, develop cards with tips, host parent classes, etc., please ask a few important questions:

  • Does your resource MODEL new behaviors?  If busy parents can’t SEE it in action, it will be difficult to reproduce.
  • Is your resource DELIVERED to families in a way that is simple and relevant?
  • Does your resource give you DATA to track the impact it is having?
  • Is your resource provided UNIVERSALLY so that it gives DIGNITY to all who use it?

See below how ReadyRosie answers these crucial questions:

The concept of ReadyRosie is simple – a daily 2 minute video in English and Spanish that is delivered to the computer or mobile device of everyone in a community with a 0-6 year old.  There are some key aspects to the resource, however, that make ReadyRosie a unique and effective way to reach families and to ultimately increase school readiness and academic success.

First of all, ReadyRosie does not just give parents tips or ideas, it MODELS them.

The most influential statement that led to the development of ReadyRosie came from a teenager who had just become a mom:  “Everyone keeps saying that I should talk to my baby and sing to my baby, but I don’t know what that means. What should I be saying?  What should I be singing?” Her honest question led to the conclusion that any truly effective intervention in the area of early childhood school readiness would HAVE to be MODELED.

There are a lot of movements today that campaign for more talking and more singing to young children.  There are schools and non-profits that even send activities out into the community that give ideas to families for increasing school readiness.  These efforts are to be applauded. However, the comment from that adolescent mom I spoke with shows the shortcomings of such campaigns. A parent has to SEE exactly what we mean.

By asking families to talk or sing or read to their children we are often asking them to diverge from the ways they themselves were raised and the way that the children in their communities are being raised.  Therefore, we are asking them to do things that they may have never seen modeled before.  They HAVE to see it – not just in print, not modeled by one person, and not a video of a professor telling them to do it, but a REAL family – someone like them that struggles with the SAME things – active kids, chaos, multiple children, children who are not interested in what you are saying, etc.   Families have to see it modeled in different voices, so that they can eventually find their own voices in talking and singing with their children.

Not only does a tool like ReadyRosie have to be MODELED, but it also has to be DELIVERED.

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The internet today is as overwhelming as the tallest and most robust library.  When you only direct a parent to a resource on a website, it is like telling someone to go and find a simple answer in the largest library. We don’t work with the internet like that anymore.  If there is a story to be told, if there is a funny video or a great news article, young people are accustomed to that information coming to them via social media, email, etc. They don’t have to search it out.  News channels and marketers know this today.  They don’t just post stories on their sites, they notify people through all means that the article has been posted.  All we have to do as consumers is to click.  Most things of interest come to us; we do not have to come to them.

How much more so with a resource that helps with our young children!  The parents, teachers, and caretakers of young children are the people in our world with the LEAST amount of free time to actively look for resources.  They are surviving each and every day and need information at their fingertips, in their back pockets, and on their devices. We knew that ReadyRosie had to be modeled and it had to be delivered DAILY.

The delivery aspect of ReadyRosie is another key element for its effectiveness.  The delivery of ReadyRosie enables us to track DATA.  Data has become one of the most important aspects for the success of ReadyRosie initiatives.

One of the most important aspects about ReadyRosie is the ability to track usage so that administrators can know HOW the tool is being utilized and WHERE it is making an impact on a community.  Other efforts do not have this tracking capability.  What zip codes are utilizing a resource?  How does one resource help them find another resource? For example – are families finding about ReadyRosie when they go in for their immunizations or vice versa?  Ultimately, we need to know if an investment in a resource is directly impacting a child.  THIS is why we built ReadyRosie- to be able to track such usage.  We are able to report back by zip code, neighborhood school, even down to the individual parent – how he or she is using ReadyRosie. We let them tell us – is this resource making a difference in your life and in the life of your child?  This is where we hear comments like these…

·      Hola.mi nombre es (name removed for anonymity) y quiero compartir que los videos que suben son de mucha ayuda para el sano crecimiento de mis ninos porq ustedes muestran las cosas muy faciles de entender es como jugar aprendiendo y se logra una gran comunicacion con nuestros hijos..muchas gracias por compartirnos.

·      As a parent of two active boys that do not seem to pay attention well, today’s video was reassuring to me that I am not alone and not failing as a parent. Thanks for posting a video with intelligent active kids.

·      We are really enjoying ReadyRosie! My children feel like we are playing fun new games each day!!!

Perhaps the most profound aspect about the simplicity of ReadyRosie is the DIGNITY it gives to families who use it.

There is often a stigma felt by families who qualify for services like parenting classes or home visitation programs due to their classification within a specific demographic.  Rather than singling out specific families based on something they are lacking, ReadyRosie provides dignity by being available to all families.

When individuals see that there is a resource that is being used by ALL families in the community and see ALL people talking about it, it begins to change the mindset of parents. They see branding and videos that market to everyone and they begin to see that all families need ideas.  All families are struggling with making language and learning a priority. No parent is a failure simply because he or she needs a resource.  We ALL need it.  When you see video modeling from ALL different kinds of families in real-life settings, not actors in pretend environments, it gives dignity and universality to parents with the need for support.

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When it comes to the word universal, there is no shortage of its use in the early childhood world today.  Everyone speaks of universal pre-K.  That is the buzz word for this:  a seat in a pre-K classroom being offered to every 4 year old.  We are strong advocates of this and hope that every state supports this effort.  However, that definition of Universal pre-k is problematic, because it is not truly universal.  In fact, most studies show us that the REAL work should be happening before the age of three.

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What we DO want to do is take advantage of the universal fact about all young children.  They are all with some caretaker – grandparents, older siblings, childcare professionals, and parents.  Wouldn’t it be MORE universal, more meaningful and more effective to build capacity in ALL adults to create universal pre-Ks in grocery stores, in waiting rooms, and in kitchens everywhere?  Not only does this save the cost of the traditional ways we view pre-K such as building expensive classrooms, hiring personnel, training, curriculum, etc.  Instead,  it actually is supported by research as a BETTER way to change the odds for young children by learning in the context of REAL life.

We are at an exciting and unique time in which there is openness to really solving the problems of school readiness.  It is also a unique time in that the digital divide is rapidly becoming a thing of the past.  We have the opportunity to provide resources to American families but we need to make sure that these efforts are truly effective.   They have to include modeling by real families.  They have to be delivered to a device and their reach needs to be measurable.  But most of all, they have to instill confidence and dignity to all adults who are working with our most precious investments – our children.  There is nothing complex about ReadyRosie, but it magically combines all of those elements into a very simple concept – a two minute a day video that lands on the cell phone of parents and caregivers everywhere, every day.

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The Story of ReadyRosie

 

As a mom of three young children, I struggled to find resources to help me effectively and creatively engage the rapidly developing minds of my kids. If a college-educated, former school teacher who spent years in the field of educational publishing finds herself at a loss for meaningful tools to get her kids ready for that first day of school, what does that mean for everyone else?

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Public awareness of the importance of early childhood education is growing – we now know that graduation rates and long-term academic success can be traced back to the amount of words in the mind of a three year old.  So how can we reach and equip parents, the first and best teachers of our nation’s youngest citizens?  And how can we effectively equip them regardless of their educational or financial status, whether or not they had a positive educational upbringing, or irrespective of their ability to speak the English language?

 

As a former school teacher, I was convinced that every kid, regardless of their background, had an enormous amount of untapped potential.  As a mom, I knew that every parent ultimately wanted what was best for their children.  So I gathered an amazing team of early childhood and content experts, and we set out to create a resource that unlocked the potential in kids by unlocking the potential of their parents.  ReadyRosie was born.

 

ReadyRosie works with school districts, cities, and other community entities to put high quality preK directly into the hands of every parent, every day.  We have hundreds of 1-2 minute videos modeling everyday activities parents and caregivers can do with their kids in everyday situations: at the breakfast table, in the laundromat, at the grocery store, or in the car or bus.  Each activity is modeled in English and Spanish.

 

Leveraging the power of mobile technology and the fact that over 85% (and growing) of all parents of preK kids, across all social, ethnic, and economic demographics, access the internet at least once a day, we deliver this to the families once a day through a simple email.  Utilizing such technology also allows schools to analyze the usage rates and effectiveness of this effort, something that is lacking in almost every parent engagement tool to date.

 

We believe that ReadyRosie can serve as either a bridge or supplement to a community’s efforts in universal preK.  And we haven’t given up on the parents as the most important resource to invest in if we are serious about early childhood development.  As one parent from Richardson, TX told us in broken English after using ReadyRosie for a while, “I always knew my child was a genius, I just didn’t know, until now, how to bring it out of him.”

 

 

 

 

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