In our community, 4 out of 5 young children do not have access to high-quality early education. Through our Family Education and Literacy strategies, like Story School, Story University, Make Way for Kindergarten, and the Make Way for Books App, we provided early literacy programming and quality books for young children and families without access to quality early education. Through a two-generation approach, children in our programming experienced stories and literacy-building activities while parents discovered strategies to support their children’s early literacy, language, and social emotional development.
A commitment to breaking down barriers
Two-weeks after closing our offices due to COVID-19, we launched our Online Storytime / Cuentos en línea program where we provided bilingual books, movement, and learning activities with families throughout the week. The group quickly grew to more than 600 participants within a matter of weeks. We also adapted our programs, such as Make Way for Kindergarten, to an online format and began book deliveries to participating families. Here's what it looked like:
Virtual Story School
With the continued closures due to COVID-19 and a growing need for support, we developed our new bilingual, Virtual Story School program to meet children and families without access to early education. The program is offered through our newly designed platform where families participate in core curriculum videos and live learning sessions that immerse children in reading experiences, language and vocabulary-building opportunities, and more. Through our two-generation approach, children are learning and experiencing stories, while parents learn about their powerful role as their children’s first, most essential teacher and discover strategies to support their children’s early literacy, language, and social emotional development. Throughout the week, children and families complete “homework” on the Make Way for Books App and connect with each other through our new digital Family Learning Space. Thanks to your generous support, participating children received a backpack full of school supplies and high-quality, culturally-responsive, and bilingual books to build their home library.
Thank you so much for providing this for our little ones and all the families involved. We didn’t expect all those beautiful books. We can’t believe it! We are so excited to be part of the program. You are making the future bright for the next generation! You have no idea how much happiness you are all bringing to so many homes, especially during these unforeseen times.
Making everyday moments learning moments with the Make Way for Books App
Make Way for Books has worked to create innovative tools to support children’s early literacy and learning. Through the Make Way for Books App, young children and families share books and literacy activities anytime, anywhere.
Through the support of a growing team, volunteers, and strong partnerships with organizations, libraries, and universities, we’ve continued to increase the scale and features of the Make Way for Books App to ensure this evolving resource is a powerful tool for families with young children. Understanding an urgent need for digital support, we added new bilingual books, activities, and features, including an exclusive family learning journal that allows families to keep track of their children's learning and growth.
This year, thousands of families - throughout Arizona, the nation, and internationally - used the Make Way for Books App to share books and used our activities to make everyday moments learning moments.
We worked to inspire, connect, and empower educators working in under-resourced preschools, childcare centers, and home-based care settings. With your support, our Early Literacy Specialists provided one-on-one coaching and professional development workshops throughout the year.
Adapting to meet educators' needs
This year, we adapted The Story Project to provide digital communities of learning with online workshops, ongoing coaching, and connections with educators who are providing in-person and distance learning for young children throughout southern-Arizona. Your support makes these words from a participating educator possible:
Working in collaboration with Make Way for Books has allowed us to continue to design resources for students and provide learning activities so that they are engaged not only at school but at home as well. Distance learning is a new reality for all of us, but we continue to strive and enhance learning experiences to meet the needs of our children and we are most successful by working in solidarity. Thanks again for all the previous workshops you had for us, for the materials and wonderful books you provided for our students and for the professional development learning you provided us.
In 2019-20, our community grew wider as we scaled our Neighborhood School Readiness Project to Maricopa County. Through Neighborhood School Readiness, we provided comprehensive early literacy programming to meet the diverse needs of young children (ages birth to six), families, and educators.
Our strategies achieve success by engaging and empowering families, supporting educators working with children in preschool, kindergarten and first grade, and develop children’s early literacy skills. Project strategies link together at each school, creating neighborhood school communities that help children thrive.
Doing more together
We know that partnership is key to ensuring that children have nurturing early educational experiences at home. We are proud to have partnered with hundreds of families, education professionals, nonprofits, agencies, home visitors, and more throughout the year to ensure our community is a place where young children can thrive. This year, in a partnership between Make Way for Books, United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona, and First Focus on Kids, we initiated a Parent Advisory Group (PAG) comprised of parents from family engagement programming provided by Make Way for Books and a number of community partners. The PAG provides critical feedback about their own experiences in family engagement programs and share areas where there is still need for support for families with young children. The current cohort of the Parent Advisory Group members are also working to identify and pursue their own educational, professional, and life goals, including engaging in their children’s health and education systems. A parent shared,
Being involved in this group has helped me to feel more empowered as a mother and community member. I feel that this group has helped me to work on my social skills including communication and public speaking. It has also helped me to be a better listener and become more involved in my children’s education. We are able to share stories and experiences that have helped me to become a stronger parent.
Creating access to books
Creating access to books is necessary to build the skills children need to become thriving readers. We worked to provide and share books that highlight diverse perspectives and voices; books that celebrate culture, race, and identity; books that build empathy and understanding; and books that empower children to see themselves and others in empowering ways.
Last year, we provided more than 38,000 quality books to children’s classrooms and homes.
Last year, volunteers dedicated more than 3,200 hours to helping us achieve our mission. We can only achieve our mission thanks to the support of our wonderful volunteers who read to children, create resources for teachers and families, deliver books, create content for the Make Way for Books App, lead change on our Board of Directors, and so much more. Thank you to each and every one of our talented and passionate volunteers.