Research shows UWATX Play To Learn makes parents happy, helps children be school-ready

After an 18-month evaluation, we have firm numbers behind something we’ve been hearing for years: UWATX’s innovative Play To Learn initiative is changing lives – read the summary of results [PDF].


Play To Learn is a new, scalable early intervention program designed to bridge the critical gaps in learning among children. Like all our work, the project targets low-income from low-income neighborhoods in Austin and surrounding areas.  The project is a result of an extensive child assessment process and data mapping initiative in Austin’s low-income neighborhoods.

Play To Learn:

A course that teaches parents how to help their children become school ready while incorporating local resources and tablet technology.

The Play To Learn project falls under UWATX’s Success By 6 program. Thanks to a $1-million grant from Samsung Austin Semiconductor, 212 families enrolled in Play To Learn from May 2012 to April 2013- and an astonishing 93 percent (198 families) completed the 8-week in-person sessions as well as the year-long library portion.

The Samsung grant also funded an 18-month evaluation from a team of researchers at The University of Texas at Austin School of Human Ecology – the full research report shows  astonishing results [PDF].

“Play To Learn was found to be an effective, short-term program for helping young children develop learning skills, including media use, as well as encouraging parental involvement in learning,” said Sue Carpenter, Sr. Director of Success By 6. “The program provides evidence that technology, local resources and a high-quality curriculum can make a significant difference in the lives of young children.”

Play To Learn results from 18-month evaluation

After participating in the program:

  •  Parents were more likely to read books, tell stories and sing to their children.
  • Parents were more likely to use the library as a resource for their children and to use the Internet to find information on parenting resources and activities for their children.
  • Children made significant gains in their social and cognitive skills.
  • Children experienced fewer behavior problems.
  • Children watched more educational television shows, such as Sesame Street, SuperWHY!, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood and other shows on KLRU-TV.
  • Parents reported a decrease in their own depressive symptoms.

In Austin, child poverty rates are nearly 25 percent higher than the national average, and only 13 percent of children raised in Austin’s low-income neighborhoods enter kindergarten ready to learn. Children from low-income households also have fewer opportunities than their higher-income peers to engage in activities using digital media.

“These concerning statistics are the driving force behind United Way for Greater Austin’s Success By 6 program, which aims to ensure every child in the Austin community enters kindergarten ready for school,” Catherine Morse, general counsel/director of public affairs at Samsung Austin Semiconductor and board chair elect for United Way for Greater Austin, said. “At Samsung, we have established a strategic focus on programs dedicated to helping children develop a love of learning.”

Special thanks to all the incredible partners who helped us make this important program a reality: Samsung Austin Semiconductor, Tapestry Foundation, KLRU- TV, Famigo and UWATX Women’s Leadership Council.

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