In the Family ACCESS Children’s Library, 2-year old JD crawls into his mom Victoria’s lap with his book “The Big Red Barn.” He quietly points to the animals on the page as his mom reads and asks him questions about the farm. Around him, other children are flipping page by page, imitating barnyard sounds and enjoying the story with their parents. When the book is done, a group facilitator leads everyone in songs, then yoga stretches.
While this year Family ACCESS Early Literacy Services has delivered 12 literacy groups based on the Raising the Reader model, this group is part of a unique partnership with Riverside Community Care. Following an inclusion model, four different literacy groups for toddlers have engaged children with special educational needs and children with other concerns for their Kindergarten readiness, including low income or low education attainment by parents.
“Our collaboration brings two strengths together to benefit families of all kinds – social development and language development,” explains Family ACCESS director Debbie Brush. “What we have seen in all our groups is children showing progress in skills necessary for learning – being attentive to book reading, participating in group activities, and parents using richer language with their children.”
“JD had a lot of social anxiety when we started,” explained mother Victoria. “Now he’s more comfortable coming to group and is calmer in the hectic environment with other children. Because he really likes his books, now he really likes going to the Library with me. And, I have found that books written with a strong rhythm engage him more readily, so I seek them out.” This exposure to group learning and using books will be very important to prepare JD for the early education program he will start in the fall.
In addition to this literacy group, three of the partnership groups have had unique specializations. One series was a music based class, “Rhythm and Rhyme.” One series was held at Needham Public Housing to provide access to low-income families.
A third series in collaboration with Thom Charles River Early Intervention was offered in Spanish; research shows that by working with parents in the language in which they are best able to talk and read with their children, we are successfully preparing children with a strong language foundation and an easier bridge to learn English.