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.
RAR-MA designed the Digital Parent Education Project with long-term sustainability in mind. With video production complete, the videos will be used in a variety of ways for many years to come, as the content and techniques will always be relevant as it is based on our evidencebased model. The use-case potential has grown since the project’s inception, which was made clear through conversations about the videos with current constituents, Parent Ambassadors,
strategic partners, program implementers, and RAR-MA staff. One exciting avenue for distribution is a potential revenue-generating opportunity through a current strategic partnership with Ready4K, a parent education curriculum delivered via text message. In addition to distributing the videos through our own text message education, RARMA can potentially lease the videos to other organizations including our RAR in the Workplace model. Many of the other avenues for distribution and use-cases are economically feasible and as RAR-MA incorporates the videos into its Train-the-Trainer model, for example, staff time may be conserved.
These videos continue to show potential to deepen our impact with parents of infants and toddlers, who often do not realize the importance of shared reading routines at this early age and may find it difficult to attend parent workshops. The videos are an extension of information communicated in our workshops to help share information and examples of real parents and caregivers reading with children. Through the video distribution and evaluation process, RAR-MA gained very encouraging and informative feedback. One of the biggest, more
general learnings, is that there is almost no limit to how we can use the videos. At the same time, RAR-MA learned the importance of providing multiple avenues for accessing the videos. For example, not every parent prefers texting distribution. As such, RAR-MA will continue to incorporate parent and partner feedback when assessing the best use-cases. The overall goal is to increase the number of ways, and even the number of times, that parents receive dialogic
reading instruction for reinforcement. The results of this distribution format will be informative as we continue conversations around strategic collaborations and incorporate ongoing feedback to continue to access these often hard to reach families.
RAR-MA is incredibly pleased with the positive feedback shared by parents, stakeholders, strategic partners based on the video distribution. However, one learning would have been to gather information on distribution and content preferences prior to launch to better inform the process. For example, it would have been best to do the pre-k videos first, as this was more relevant for the age group of the Ready4K families. Additionally, in an ideal world, more filming days would have provided more content and lessened the load on some of the families and partners. Realizing the limitations and scheduling conflicts of all the constituents (parents, videographer, staff, volunteers. etc. involved) for the videos, we are very pleased with the results.
Our evaluation data suggest that our signature Red Book Bag Rotation program combined with as few as one parent educational workshop, can have a lasting effect on parent behavior. Parents and caregivers who have multiple jobs, constantly changing job schedules, or limited access to transportation and other stressors 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 are 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, toddlers and preschoolers that are intended to complement parent workshops as an extension of learning as well as provide foundational information to families who are not able to attend. Videos provide a helpful format to reach families with young children during this critical time in their lives, laying the foundation for a lifetime of learning. We assume the videos will also serve as an effective marketing tool to share with parents some of what they can learn in our workshops and encourage them to attend.
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 one-third of the children that RAR-MA serves annually. The new preschool videos benefits parents and caregivers of ages 3-5, which ensures our video library has appropriate content for nearly all of the parents and caregivers of children that we serve. Moreover, these videos will have a wider distribution opportunity because our current partner programs and strategic partners more frequently target preschoolaged children.
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 modeling videos to demonstrate interactive reading skills during conversations with families. Since the last reporting period, RAR-MA has also begun formulating a plan for how the videos can increase its value-proposition for its Satellite Partners, program partners not in the core RAR-MA communities who purchase some of RAR-MA’s services to benefit their constituents, as well as
our corporate partners through RAR-MA in the Workplace as an additional program attribute.
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. In the future, we can add subtitles for additional languages of the families we serve as needed.
RAR-MA has made a strategic decision to focus on quality over quantity and make our program more accessible to existing partners and families. Our goal is to move the needle on kindergarten readiness and to do so, we need to focus on the parents as their child’s first teacher. This includes providing parents and caregivers with helpful tools that complement our curriculum and workshops, including videos. 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. RAR-MA is thrilled with the immediate impact demonstrated through the results and feedback from parents and partners (see detail below). RAR-MA feels confident that the true potential has yet to be unlocked and that the videos will continue to make a difference in more ways than originally considered. It has also become apparent throughout the project that the videos have the ability to build capacity in both the RAR-MA program staff and the program partner staff, potentially augmenting our ability to reach more families, improve data and reach as well as increase our impact.
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, toddlers and preschoolers. Distribution of these videos, in a variety of ways, will enable us to reach parents and caregivers who may be reluctant or unable to attend a parent education workshop and as a complement to a 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. Lastly, parents do not often get to observe other parents reading dialogically with their children. The videos show real (unscripted) interactions between parents and children where the children are not always sitting still or giving correct answers. In these videos, parents are able to witness what they can expect from their children at different ages and what they are capable of doing, serving as a comfortable and trusted resource for information.
RAR-MA has completed 10 videos for the toddler ages and has completed filming for 4 videos for the pre-k ages. 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. The original videos include linear animation that provides context and instruction about each core topic, including how the strategies can be implemented as children get older. For each topic, there is 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. Evaluation: RAR-MA also ran a pilot text message distribution of the videos wherein 692 individuals who were on the text messaging program last year received the texts containing the videos. For each of the 9 videos circulated via text message, the average number of views, average unique viewers, average duration watched and an average percentage of video watched is below.
Of the 692 recipients, the number that opted out is below and the average rating of the videos provided via text are below. Rating scale 1 to 5 (1 = not useful, 5 = very useful). Overall, the videos were rated very useful.
RAR-MA also collected qualitative feedback on the videos, which is where many of the ideas about video use-case were inspired. Below are a few quotations:
“I liked the different family groupings. For example, the first video shows both parents and the second shows a father. This is encouraging and emphasizes that both parents can be involved.” RAR-MA Parent. “The third video was helpful because it showed that the main focus was not reading the book, but creating an interaction with the book.” This viewer particularly liked that the child was mimicking some of the behaviors seen in the book. RAR-MA Parent
“I know some parents might feel discouraged if their kid isn’t super excited about reading, but that’s not the point. It’s that you start the habit early.” RAR-MA Staff member.
The 692 individuals were randomly divided into 3 groups and each group received 3 different videos over the course of a month. The videos sent to each group were varied by age, family type, curriculum/strategy and language. The texts included a private YouTube link that directed them to the video. After individuals received all three videos, they were sent a text asking them to rate the content of the videos on a scale of 1-5 (1=not useful, 5=very useful). All texts were sent through our Salesforce database using the SMS 360 App. The quantitative analytics were easily sourced through YouTube. RAR-MA chose this host because it already had an account and the analytics are provided to any account holder who uploads a video through a user-friendly dashboard. For this pilot, the videos were distributed on private links, meaning that users have to have the exact link to access it and they are not yet posted to our channel. Qualitative feedback was acquired through a small focus group and multiple one-on-one interviews. RAR-MA tapped into its robust network of Parent Ambassadors, parents who went through the program and now volunteer their time to engage with parents in our program and run parent education workshops.
RAR-MA designed this project with longevity in mind, with the hope of creating a library of videos flexible to needs of parents and partners. After the complete video library is 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 as another tool to share the importance of this early literacy exposure. RAR-MA’s ongoing program is supported by program and general operating revenue.
This project can easily be replicated. Fortunately, we will not need additional videos for quite some time as we have just begun to share our current library. With this resource of video content, RAR-MA will continue to better serve families and identify new revenue streams, including sharing with strategic partners and showing examples of our program in action to funders, partners and constituents. If it is determined that videos in other languages are needed, RAR-MA will be able to do so at a lower cost because the curriculum is already written. To date, we have shared an example video with Raising A Reader National and our strategic partner, Ready4K, with positive results. We continue to collect feedback and look forward to the results as we distribute our video library of shared reading.