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Raising A Reader MA

As RAR-MA focuses on impact and sustainability, program staff are creating new technologies to supplement and enhance its awareness-raising and education program components by producing a series of instructional videos.  The series of short mini lessons will be patterned after a series that was professionally produced by a local television station.  Those videos have proven to be very useful.

What was the problem the project solved?

Our evaluation data suggest that our signature Red Book Bag Rotation program combined with as little as one parent educational workshop can have a lasting effect on parent behavior. Yet, parents and caregivers who have multiple jobs, constantly changing job schedules, or limited access to transportation sometimes find it difficult to attend the workshops. Parents of infants and toddlers are especially difficult to reach through RAR-MA’s traditional parent workshops because often they have only recently enrolled their children in an early education program and do not yet see the critical importance of reading with their child at an early age. Yet, parent education and troubleshooting is especially important for parents of infants and toddlers because their children have emerging motor and verbal skills. The Digital Parent Education Project has allowed us to create volumes of short videos (60-90 seconds each) geared toward parents of infants and toddlers that are intended to complement parent workshops as well as provide foundational information to families who are not able to attend.

Who does the project help?

RAR-MA targets its programs and services to neighborhoods with average household incomes and educational attainment rates below the state average, large numbers of immigrants and refugees, and higher than average rates of underperforming schools. The initial volumes of videos in the Digital Parent Education Project benefit parents and caregivers of children ages 0-3 in these populations, who account for approximately 36% of the 10,000 children that RAR-MA serves annually.
In addition, these videos benefit our program partners who will be able to more easily
incorporate RAR-MA into their current family engagement offerings, using the videos to
demonstrate interactive reading skills during conversations with families. Once the videos have been created and tested with parents, they will be available to all families in partner programs at no cost to them.

Watch Video 1

Watch Video 2

What makes your solution unique?

Videos have the potential to transform RAR-MA’s research-based parent education model, reach a more diverse audience of families with on-demand content, and serve many languages. In addition, conveying information through video instead of printed resources utilizes a format that can ease participants’ own literacy concerns. Some parents and caregivers are not comfortable with their own literacy level or command of English. Our program staff speaks multiple languages, and our program is intentionally tailored for participants who do not know English or may not be readers themselves. We intentionally designed all the initial videos to be accessible in both English and Spanish. Each video has spoken voices in the native language of the parent volunteer with subtitles for the other language. We can add subtitles for additional languages of the families we serve as needed in the future.

How did the project make a difference?

In the past two years, RAR-MA has made a strategic decision to focus on quality over quantity and make our program more accessible to existing partners and families. The Digital Parent Education Project aligns with this strategy by offering partners and families an easily accessible format for learning about the importance of early literacy and techniques for shared dialogic reading. In addition, during the next stage of this project, we will be proactive about integrating evaluation into the distribution stage. RAR-MA has an organizational commitment to rigorous evaluation, continuous quality improvement, and best practices; we continue to learn how to better collect and use data. In the past year, we have implemented a new reporting system aimed at addressing the challenges of working with transient populations and frequent turnover among partner staff. We received a multi-year grant from Boston Children’s Hospital’s Collaborative for Community Health, in part to improve our evaluation process and systems, which has allowed us to hire an evaluation manager. With these resources in place, we are pleased to be able to incorporate evaluation into the Digital Parent Education Project.

What were the benefits?

This project and First Nonprofit Foundation’s dedicated funding gave RAR-MA the latitude to explore videos as a powerful medium of communication in order to strengthen its outreach to hard-to-reach populations of parents of infants and toddlers. Distribution will enable us to reach parents and caregivers who may be reluctant or unable to attend a parent education workshop. Though not a substitute for in-person dialogic reading instruction, these videos are a form of parent outreach and education aimed at increasing awareness of the importance of early literacy and specific dialogic reading techniques, which in turn may encourage parents to participate in traditional workshop settings.

What were the results?

By the middle of March, RAR-MA will have completed an introductory video and two complete volumes, including six infant videos and seven toddler videos, for a total of fourteen videos. These videos align with the framework RAR-MA developed for an entire library of videos tailored to the parents of defined age groups in a progressive format: infants, toddlers, younger preschool, and older preschool children. They include linear animation that provides context and instruction about each core topic, including how the strategies can be implemented as children get older, and live action video showing parent-child modeling behavior of key literacy awareness and book handling skills specific to each age and techniques for each of the six dialogic reading strategies, aligned with the Raising A Reader parent education curriculum. To bring this project to fruition, RAR-MA’s Director of Programs and Operations created storyboards for each video outlining the setting, the age of the children, the dialogic reading technique to be utilized, and suggested books to use. Program managers recruited 15-20 families, some including grandparents and siblings, to participate in filming, offering incentives for participation. Consultant 1, a former RAR-MA Senior Program Manager and Curriculum Lead, scripted guides for each video, selected which video clips to utilize, wrote pop-up tips to accompany scripts, and translated scripts for the subtitles. Consultant 2, a former RAR-MA Program Manager, produced animated introductions to be incorporated into each volume. Consultant videographer, e-MediateResponse LLC, filmed, produced and edited the videos. Filming occurred over two full days, one at Chelsea Public Library and the other at a partner site
in Springfield, MA that opened its classrooms on a Saturday for RAR-MA’s exclusive use.

How were the results measured?

Thus far, the output of this project has been the production of 14 videos and the completion of the introduction, infant volume and toddler volume. Additional outputs and outcomes will be measured in the next stage of distribution and evaluation. We anticipate additional measures might include the number of times each video has been viewed to completion, the number of times each parent watched more than one video, the number of times parents took a certain action after watching a video, and changes in parental perception and behavior based on survey feedback from partners and parents.

How is the project sustainable?

After the videos are produced and distributed, the project will be incorporated into RAR-MA’s ongoing dual intervention program and will enhance parent educational workshops in dialogic reading. RAR-MA’s ongoing program is supported by program and general operating revenue.

Can the project be replicated? How so?

If the evaluation of the videos, both alone and as a sequence, demonstrates positive results, RAR MA anticipates sharing it across partner communities and through RAR in the Workplace, our new corporate employee benefit initiative, and with other states through the national Raising A Reader network. The videos have the potential to increase organizational impact and sustainability, as RAR-MA may be able to generate revenue through program fees outside of its existing partners.