Thank you Ivette! I have a strong vision for literacy in St. Louis and in our country. It is crucial, absolutely essential that everyone can read well in today's world. And, in St. Louis, there is a 25% illiteracy rate. Illiteracy = poverty.
Thank you Bev. I have thought about modeling our program in other communities for years. And, yes, Ready Readers is currently in an urban community, but I do believe we can get all community members in all different types of communities reading to their children. It takes a village!! And, thank you again. By becoming a Changemaker, we can further expand our model!
Thank you Maud and Nicole for your supportive words and questions about the assessment of our program. How do we know Ready Readers is preparing the children to become readers. We have struggled with evaluating this (with the small amount of money that we have), and at looking at all of the variables in a child's life (outside of Ready Readers and the classroom.)
Currently, we made the decision that any child who participates in the Ready Readers program for a school year, has the emergent literacy skills and motivation (that strong early literacy foundation) to become successful readers when entering kindergarten. What are those emergent literacy skills? At Ready Readers, we chose our state's Missouri Early Learning Goals: https://dese.mo.gov/sites/default/files/eel-el-2013-MELGoals.pdf, as the indicators that we would assess.
Therefore, we budget and hire an outside evaluator every year. For the past five years, we have hired Dr. Leslie Scheuler with the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis. We have a Logic Model for each of our six goals, which we outline the inputs, the outputs, and our targeted measurable results. Ready Readers tests our Logic Model by having our outside evaluator pre- and post- assess the early literacy skills of a sample of children at four different centers, post-assess the early literacy skills at a center where there is not a Ready Readers program, and survey all teachers and volunteer readers. Each year, our results improve. We will post our 2015 2016 Evaluation Report and our 2015 2016 Logic Model with measured results to our website at http://www.readyreaders.org.
In summary, this past school year, there were:
(1) Increases in the children’s exposure to and engagement with books and reading as demonstrated from pre to post in the percentage of children who could identify a favorite book and who reported being read to both at home and at school. Specifically, 93% of the children who participated in Ready Readers for one school year could identify a favorite book, yet at a comparison site without Ready Readers, 67% of the children could identify a favorite book. 98% of the children in the Ready Readers program reported that someone at school read to them, yet at a comparison site without Ready Readers, 58% reported that someone read to them at school.
(2) Increased support for pre-reading skills, leading to higher percentages of children at post who correctly identified their printed names, who identified specific letters in their names, and who could sing a simple children’s song. 81% of children who participated in Ready Readers could correctly identify their first names, yet only 25% of the children at a comparison site without Ready Readers could identify their first name.
(3) Improvements in reading-related behaviors. From pre to post, higher percentages of the children demonstrated: a) the ability to hold a book and turn pages correctly, and b) a familiarity with the task of reading stories by pretending to read a book they selected. 88% of children who participated in Ready Readers pretended to read a book when they selected a book, but only 58% of the children at the comparison site without Ready Readers pretended to read a book. 94% of teacher agreed that the Ready Readers volunteers helped inspire children to like books and to become readers themselves someday.
This August 2016, based on our results, we will revise our program, set higher, targeted measurable results, and higher Dr. Scheuler to assess our program again this year.
In the past based on our results, we have improved training and required continuing education for our volunteer readers, hired an early childhood literacy specialist to work with the classroom teachers to provide high-quality literacy curriculum daily for the children, and piloted new programs including a "Book-A-Day" program, free "literacy-based" field trips for the children, and family programs.
At Ready Readers, however, we are always looking to improve the evaluation of our outcomes. I have looked at the National Institute for Health - and their grant opportunities for assessment. I would love to know of other opportunities. I want all children to love books and become strong readers and thinkers - and we can use all of the help we can get.