Why is "Ready to Learn" Important?
"Seeing is believing."
Research has shown that seeing is remembering, too.
In a nutshell, people generally remember about twice as much when they see and hear something, than when they only see or hear it. Television's combination of sound and imagery renders it a powerful aid to learning. In fact, a positive relationship has been found between childhood viewing of educational television and cognitive performance at preschooler and college levels.
Children's viewing of educational television has been shown to support significant and lasting learning gains, while too much viewing of other types of programming may be associated with a lack of academic achievement.
With more than 400,000 children under the age of nine (20% of the state's total population), and 18% of children under the age of five living in poverty (40,845 children), Utah has the highest percentage of preschool-age children in the nation. We are one of only 10 states that do not invest in any pre-kindergarten programs. Utah has only just approved funding for full-day kindergarten for at-risk children, and attendance is not mandatory.
As a result, the responsibility for Utah preschool education falls squarely on the family's shoulders. This presents significant challenges for low-income, non-English speaking and other disadvantaged families, who are often ill-equipped to prepare their children to succeed in school and in life.
Recent studies show strong correlations between socioeconomic and demographic risk factors and learning difficulty in school. More than half of U.S. children are reported to have one or more risk factors associated with school failure, with 15% having three or more. Those with multiple risk factors are likely to have had limited exposure to books, language, storybook reading, and other literacy-related activity known to provide a critical foundation for reading achievement.
Key experiences that often take place in higher-income homes are not available or are unlikely to occur in poverty settings. Yet these experiences provide vital knowledge for developing concepts and vocabulary, and it is this knowledge that children from low-income communities lack - not the ability to learn.
KUED uses PBS children's television content in the workshop setting to address school readiness in a variety of ways. Particular emphasis is placed on:
Using the Ready to Learn Workshops, we train adults to regularly use and enhance the value of PBS children's television and online content directly with children ages 0-8, particularly those who may be at risk of educational failure because of poverty, limited English proficiency, disability and/or community conditions.
The free workshops for parents provide simple, substantive training to encourage them to view a PBS children's program, do an activity, and read a book relating to the program and activity with their children. Most workshops target at-risk children and families in Salt Lake County through Salt Lake City School District Title I schools and the Salt Lake Community Action Program (CAP) Head Start. KUED distributes a free book to every child whose parent attends a workshop - approximately 4,000 books per year.
The literacy workshops address a host of early childhood education issues, including child development, coping with feelings, cultures, families, geography, health care and hygiene, overcoming fears, parenting, media literacy, music, nutrition, safety and self esteem.
KUED has been providing free literacy workshops for the community since 2002, and has expanded from offering just 36 workshops in 2002 to over 144 in 2006. During the 2008 fiscal year, KUED will present 170 workshops to more than 4,000 parents this year, with many workshops offered bilingually.
Although difficult to measure, the impact of the workshops is measured in various ways. Workshop attendees are required to fill out a survey at the end of each workshop in order to receive a free book for their children. The survey captures basic demographic information, whether and how they found the workshop helpful, and if they plan to use what they have learned with their children. KUED also captures feedback from community partner organizations to measure workshop impact and success. In addition, we utilize numerous state reports to inform our planning and help us determine whether our outreach efforts are reaching the appropriate demographic in the most appropriate manner.
* Research is taken from Television Goes to School: The Impact of Video on Student Learning in Formal Education, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, January 2004, and from Susan B. Neuman's "From Rhetoric to Reality: The Case for High-Quality Compensatory Prekindergarten Programs," Phi Delta Kappan, December 2003.