In Travis County, only about 42% of children from low-income families enter Kindergarten ready to learn. Research also tells us that there is a large vocabulary gap at age four between children from low-income families and children from high-income families. These are striking statistics because children who start school behind, are more likely to stay behind, and many never catch up. They are also more likely to need special education services and by adulthood, many drop out of high school and become part of the juvenile justice system.
In order to support language development and improve school readiness among children in our Center Project centers, Success By 6 brought six AmeriCorps members and five Classroom Coaches on board this past fall to provide literacy and math support in early learning centers throughout Austin. The cadre of educators spends between 10 and 40 hours per week working directly with low-income children, building oral language skills, providing engaging research-based math and literacy curriculum, and supporting social-emotional development. This work is done in large groups, small groups and sometimes one-on-one.
The supplemental one-on-one and small group instruction is incredibly important as it provides children with individualized instruction that is appropriate for their skill level. After analyzing last year’s interventions, UWATX saw tremendously positive results from this focus on literacy and math development. During the seven-month intervention period, children in our program saw more than 17 months of growth in their receptive language development. Furthermore, nearly 90% of the children from low-income families were developmentally on-target in their receptive language development after the intervention.
Our AmeriCorps members and Literacy Coaches come from a huge range of talents and experiences, including a retired Reading Specialist, a former Fulbright fellow, an opera singer, social workers and students working towards their Masters and PhDs.
We asked some AmeriCorps members and Literacy Coaches to describe their intervention experiences in their own words:
“I was coloring with a two-year-old (2 years, 9 months) and she drew a version of the letter “S” on her paper. After she drew it, she came running over to me saying, “Ms. Abby! Ms. Abby, I wrote my name!” She was so excited. Obviously, there are a few more letters in her name, but recognizing her name begins with the letter S, identifying the letter S when she sees it and writing her own letter S was such a wonderful step. To reach this level of understanding at the age of two means she will be well on her way to succeeding in Kindergarten, and that, to me, is incredible.” Abby, Classroom Coach
“My morning drive to my childcare center always includes listening to “Do uou believe in magic?” by The Lovin’ Spoonful. A year ago, I knew I wanted to incorporate my background in social services and education in a fresh, creative way. I truly felt like I needed to “believe in magic.” Out of the blue, a role with Success By 6 found me! As a Classroom Literacy Coach, Success By 6 allows me to create entertaining and engaging activities in a classroom of eager pre-schoolers. No two days are ever the same! From acting out nursery rhymes to creating shapes with dried pasta noodles, my creativity and love for this unique program grows daily. I’m glad I listened to the tugging of my heart strings to ‘believe in magic’…it truly exists!” Belinda, Classroom Coach
United Way for Greater Austin is already recruiting for the next school year’s cohort of educators. You can become part of this program that changes children’s lives though language and math.