By Mikaela Houghton - Manager, Affiliate Growth and Development
Raising A Reader (RAR) pursues our mission by building the capacity of local Affiliates to engage families in developing at-home literacy routines. We prioritize children least likely to achieve educational success by focusing on kindergarten readiness and 3rd-grade reading levels. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the students we serve have experienced close to a year of either hybrid or distance learning and are under unprecedented stress as they face uncertainty, economic hardship, and a lack of social support systems. Caregivers now have to support learning without having tools, resources, and knowledge about providing high-quality early learning experiences. COVID-19 has had disproportionate impacts on low-income communities and communities of color, whose children were already likely to face learning gaps of one or more years compared to their peers.
The year 2020 was an inflection point for RAR in terms of program innovation. RAR implemented several innovative pilots and introduced a new offering into the marketplace - the Family Shared Reading Program (FSRP). FSRP is a model that enables families to build their home libraries and receive tools and resources to effectively promote at-home learning via shared reading routines and provides professional development for educators on shared reading strategies and family strengthening. FSRP builds families' home libraries with bilingual children’s books and a family guide that equips caregivers with strategies to maximize shared reading time. The program supports educators with additional online training and resources to provide high-quality virtual or in-person connections with families. RAR is also piloting several digital tools to enhance family communication and engagement with RAR programming, including our Family Learning Circle app which incorporates our FSRP curriculum into a group-texting app that allows not only for communication between educator and parents but also parent-to-parent, which is designed to reduce family isolation and promote peer-to-peer learning.
Besides this offering, Raising A Reader has been working hard on a variety of other projects, including supporting our Affiliates with rotating their Red Book Bags in addition to strengthening our partnerships with coalitions, funders, school districts, Head Start sites, and other service providers across the country. In this past year, RAR doubled down on its commitment to turn the tide of the systemic inequality that exists in the current education system through the development of a race equity agenda. This serves as a guidepost for ways RAR holds itself accountable for Black and LatinX families, neighborhoods, and schools, in particular. RAR is in the process of completing a book audit to ensure the book collection reflects the life experiences of all families served. As we navigate the shifts in our education system, we look forward to a continued collective effort that empowers families and creates successful learning environments for all children. Your support of our mission has helped us tremendously– and from all of us, thank you!
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