Social distancing, text messaging, and proven programming meet to bridge the digital divide
(Oakland, CA) April 15, 2020 – Reading Partners, an early literacy nonprofit dedicated to mobilizing community volunteers to tutor students in under-resourced schools, announces its partnership with Bright by Text to provide content-rich, literacy focused text messages to parents and caregivers to help support young students. The family texting program was quickly expanded in response to widespread COVID-19 school closures and is now a free resource for all students and families across the country (texting and data rates may apply), whether they are part of the Reading Partners program or not.
The Bright By Text program, available in both English and Spanish, was strategically chosen by Reading Partners due to its text messaging capability as the digital divide in America persists in economically disadvantaged American households. The platform will send two messages a week providing literacy tips, facts, and activities to parents and caregivers of five- to eight-year-olds, with content created from Reading Partners best practices and evidence-based program. In addition to the two Reading Partners messages, parents will receive information from Bright by Text about STEM, caregiver resilience, and more.
According to Pew Research Center, more than four-in-ten Americans don’t have home broadband services (44 percent) nor a traditional computer (46 percent). By comparison, each of these technologies are nearly ubiquitous among adults in households earning $100,000 or more a year.
“While our traditional model mobilizes community volunteers to tutor students in schools, in the face of COVID-19, we were able to quickly pivot with the Bright By Text partnership to remain a daily force in helping students gain the critical early literacy skills they need to succeed in school and beyond,” says Karine Apollon, CEO, Reading Partners. “In the midst of this pandemic, our mission to serve students in lower-income areas is more relevant than ever as they are disproportionately affected by societal shocks. With this texting platform, we are still able to support students whether they can afford internet services or not.”
Research shows that students who are not reading at grade level by fourth grade are four times less likely to graduate on time. Additionally, 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores revealed that only 35 percent of US fourth graders are reading at grade level—and only 21 percent of
economically disadvantaged fourth graders. Today, it is estimated that 32 million adults in the U.S. cannot read. Addressing the literacy crisis in the early elementary years can help end the destructive trends of cyclical poverty and racial inequality.
Families and caregivers across the nation are invited to sign up today by texting the word READ to274448 or by signing up online. The sign-up process takes less than a minute.
In addition to the Bright By Text partnership, Reading Partners is deploying a number of other resources to support students who are out of school due to the COVID-19 public health emergency:
- Take Reading With You - Reading Partners has collaborated with local student food distribution sites in select regions to safely send books and literacy worksheets home with students. To find out how you can donate books or contribute funds to buy books for distribution, please firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Family Literacy Resources - Reading Partners has created a range of detailed, easy-to-use literacy strategies for families in English and Spanish.
- Live Virtual Read Alouds – Reading Partners teams will use online spaces, like Zoom, to facilitate live read alouds available to both Reading Partners and non-Reading Partners students.
- Anytime Read Aloud Videos – Reading Partners AmeriCorps members will record virtual read aloud videos featuring high-quality diverse texts. Reading Partners families and students will be able to access virtual read aloud links at any time.
- IRP Skills Videos – Reading Partners AmeriCorps members will make two-minute videos of a specific individualized reading plan (IRP) skill. Each video will be targeted toward one Reading Partners student and will go directly (via private link) to the student’s parents / caregivers as a resource to support their student while schools are closed.
- Literacy Skill Videos – Reading Partners AmeriCorps members will record short skill-building videos across grade levels using research-based curriculum materials. The videos will show caregivers simple and effective activities they can do at home to help students practice a range of literacy skills while schools remain closed.
- Digital Library - Reading Partners has partnered with Age of Learning to offer ReadingIQ, an advanced digital library and literacy platform for children through sixth grade that provides access to thousands of high-quality books in English, Spanish and ‘offline’ mode.Reading Partners seeks to secure necessary funding to keep the organization whole and responsive to the changing needs of the students and communities it serves. The best way to create quality academic opportunities for students during this challenging time is to make a contribution directly on Reading Partners’ website.Those interested in making a major contribution, are encouraged to email@example.com. Each gift will help ensure critical literacy resources reach students, whether in their classrooms or homes.
Example of content through the family texting program
Link to v ideo on Dropbox showing a screen shot of the family texting program sign-up process in action
- [0:00] – [0:07] – Text the word READ to 274448 from any mobile device
- [0:07] – [0:16] – Bright by Text will send welcome messaging and ask for subscriber to submit achild’s birthdate
- [0:15] – [0:25] – Submit and confirm the child’s date of birth
- [0:24] – [0:33] – Submit and confirm zip code
- It’s as simple as that!
About Reading Partners
For more than 20 years, Reading Partners has empowered students to succeed in reading and in life by engaging community volunteers to provide one-on-one tutoring. Since its founding, the national nonprofit organization has mobilized more than 60,000 community volunteers to provide proven, individualized literacy tutoring to nearly 60,000 elementary school students in over 400 under-resourced schools across ten states and the District of Columbia. Visit readingpartners.org to learn more about our program impact, or connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.
About Bright by Text
Bright by Text helps parents and caregivers make the most out of time at home with their children by illustrating fun and easy activities, providing positive parenting tips and resources, and even video content to guide a child’s development. The program is proven to build nurturing caregiver-child relationships, and
positively impact a child’s healthy development and school readiness. Innovative services like Bright by Text will help provide equitable solutions to early education while schools remain closed.
The American Consortium for Equity in Education, publisher of the "Equity & Access" journal, celebrates and connects the educators, associations, community partners and industry leaders who are working to solve problems and create a more equitable environment for historically underserved pre K-12 students throughout the United States.