Home reading app helps parents develop children’s literacy skills

Hollis Irvin learned to read last year. She is a good reader, says her mother, Tiffany Burks. Last year, when the pandemic forced schools to temporarily close and during the first days of distance learning that followed, Burks began to worry about his second-grader at Grier Elementary.

Hollis would start reading words just to say them aloud – without trying to figure out what the words and passages meant. Reading was a chore for Hollis, Burks said.

Then they found the Reading review, a mobile app that families can use to develop literacy skills at home. The app guides children through a quiz and, based on the results, suggests activities and games to do on their own or to work on with their parents.

“She makes the connection when it comes to questions [about what she read], so she doesn’t just read for the sake of reading, ”Burks said. “If I had a question about any of the passages she read, she can answer the question. There has been a lot of growth that I have seen.

The Reading Checkup is available free of charge in Mecklenburg County as a Read Charlotte, a community-wide reading initiative, is running a free pilot of the app for its creator, Learning Ovations. While Read Charlotte uses it to help parents work with their children, the algorithm he uses was designed to help teachers in the classroom.

Munro Richardson, executive director of Read Charlotte, believes the app can help kids tackle unfinished learning issues and tackle summer slips.

“When we think about what’s going on in this COVID and post-COVID environment, our kids are going to be everywhere,” Richardson said. “So the need for this kind of precision medicine for literacy is greater than ever. “

Richardson was learning more about the platform when the pandemic began. When he learned that the Department of Education had asked Learning Ovations to investigate the use of the platform in the home for children and parents, his ears pricked up.

Richardson convinced Learning Ovations to choose Mecklenburg County. His team worked on changes to make the platform more compatible for the community. The first thing they did was change the name, which was previously Home Literacy Coach.

Then they worked on making the interface more user-friendly. A 15-minute assessment has become two short quizzes. In addition, many of the activities suggested for children required school resources. Read Charlotte therefore worked with nonprofit partners and came up with new activities that were easier to do at home.

Read Charlotte has also partnered with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, which have provided six teachers to record more than 100 videos explaining how caregivers can conduct adult-led activities.

To spread the word, Read Charlotte has partnered with over 80 organizations. One of them, BCDI-Charlotte, has introduced the app to hundreds of homes. They also came up with the idea of ​​creating hand-out literacy kits containing resources for the activities suggested by the app.

“We were excited about this project and we kind of picked it up and were able to work with it,” said BCDI-Charlotte President Devonya Govan-Hunt. “Because it puts so much emphasis on where we think the majority, much of the power in fact, resides, which is in the home and in the hands of parents.”

About 3,300 K-3 students have used the Reading Checkup at home since last summer, accessing it on smartphones, tablets or computers. One of them was Hollis.

“We use this as a supplement,” Burks said. “And she doesn’t feel like she’s in school when she does. She feels like she’s playing a game. So it was very helpful to me.

Govan-Hunt says this app allows parents to actively engage in their child’s ability to read. When parents are involved, she believes the impact on reading scores will be substantial.

“So with this Reading Checkup, we’ve been working to really increase family engagement, because we actually believe family engagement is the cornerstone of everything we do,” she said. “We believe that engaging families, especially in literacy, is a high impact strategy for improving schools and increasing literacy outcomes, period.

“And that’s what this Reading Checkup allows us to do. Put control in the hands of parents.

The comments Richardson has received suggest that the BCDI message resonates with the community.

“So at a time when it was all really hanging, and people were losing their jobs and there was all kinds of uncertainty, the way they frame that with parents was to talk about control,” said Richardson. “While there are a lot of things in your life that could be beyond your control, helping your child read… using the reading assessment is an area that you can control. And they found a lot of parents really warmed by this message. “

BCDI-Charlotte has visited schools, camped in front of grocery stores, and set up tables in shopping malls in an attempt to engage families and raise awareness of the Reading Checkup. Courtesy of BCDI-Charlotte

Govan-Hunt said this was a particularly important message for black and brown communities. In the communities she serves, she said there was a feeling that many schools were not doing enough to engage with black parents. She noted assumptions about family stress levels during the pandemic or prejudices against the will and ability of black and brown parents to be involved in their children’s schooling.

“We believe we have a responsibility to respond to this reality we live in by transforming the approach that many people take around family engagement, from a supposedly random act of family engagement to one. act that really has a lift by the community or by the village, ”she said.

Tiffany Burks was one of those parents. She visited the Melanated Exchange Market in Charlotte last year to buy books from Hollis. In part, she wanted to motivate her child to read during this time when reading was a chore.

As Burks walked through a parking lot to the market, a hub for black-owned small businesses, his daughter walked over to a table filled with books. She stopped and stared at a particular book. The cover showed a black girl with naturally curly hair, just like Hollis’.

Burks smiled at his daughter’s reaction. She barely noticed Govan-Hunt approaching her.

“She’s crying,” Govan-Hunt recalls of Burks.

Burks finally turned to Govan-Hunt and asked him how she could help Hollis stay on track in reading. It was then that Govan-Hunt told him about Reading Checkup. They talked about the power of parents to help their children read, the importance of finding rich and culturally diverse texts, and how the app could help build children’s reading skills and love of reading. Hollis.

“And she said, ‘Thank you. I’ve never had the opportunity to have this conversation with anyone before, ”said Govan-Hunt. “It was out of fear that his thoughts and fears weren’t relevant, and that people really didn’t have those conversations in society. we live in today.

Hollis left the market with three free books from BCDI, and has been using the app ever since.

“I was worried that because she was learning at home that she would disengage and not be so excited to learn,” Burks said. “And that’s where I feel like the app fills that gap because it’s like, okay, if you didn’t get that lesson in school, I know you got it.” receive on the app and you like to do the app. So it’s not like I have to force you to do it.

Rupen Fofaria

Rupen Fofaria is the Equity and Learning Differences rapporteur at EducationNC. It exists to shed light, including telling stories about underreported issues.

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