For Immediate Release - October 10, 2012

Patrick-Murray Administration Announces Public/Private Partnership to Support Early Literacy Programs for Families

Commonwealth’s successful Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge initiative will help prevent achievement gaps among our youngest citizens, before they form

BOSTON – The Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) today announced a new partnership with IBM to increase family literacy and support early childhood development.  This collaboration will supplement existing adult education programs with proven family literacy resources that will help to strengthen parents’ literacy skills and give them tools to support their children’s reading and language development, and provide resources to early education and care programs to support literacy acquisition in children ages 3 to 7 years old.

This partnership is part of the Commonwealth’s successful Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge plan, a four year blueprint for advancement of child, youth, and community outcomes in Massachusetts.  The Commonwealth received a $50M award from the Obama Administration over the next four years to implement high-energy, achievable education reform initiatives that blaze the trail for closing the achievement gap. 

“Parents and families are their children’s first teachers and as such they have an important role to play in supporting early literacy and language development,” said Department of Early Education and Care Commissioner Sherri Killins.  “As our Commonwealth’s early education and care programs and adult literacy centers work to strengthen family literacy, especially among bi- and multi-lingual families, this partnership initiative is a key resource in supporting both parents’ and children’s English language acquisition and reading skills.” 

Through this partnership, IBM is donating early literacy educational technology to the state, including its Reading Companion software and KidSmart Early Learning Program.  Up to twenty Adult Education program sites will receive a $15,000 grant from EEC over three years to equip their programs with adult literacy tools, including IBM Reading Companion software, to assist families that are working to improve their English language and literacy skills.  Additionally, through its KidSmart Early Learning Program, IBM is also donating its Young Explorer Computers to not-for-profit early education and care programs serving children between the ages of 3 and 7 years old, to help children learn and explore concepts in math, science and language. 

“Research and brain science make a compelling case that investments in high quality early learning experiences, such as those that build children’s math and literacy skills and engage families in their children’s learning, are a key investment in workforce development,” said Board of Early Education and Care Chairman J.D. Chesloff.  “This initiative and the contribution from IBM is a model for how businesses can invest in early education to help build strong communities and a citizenry that is equipped to be competitive in a 21st Century global economy.” 

EEC’s adult literacy initiative will support families with children who have high needs, including limited English proficiency, and will aim to strengthen parents’ ability to help their children develop early language and literacy skills and bolster their school readiness.  Funding from EEC’s grant will provide services to approximately 100 families during each year of the initiative.  Four programs have received awards totaling $60,000 from EEC in a first round of funding.  These Adult Education programs are Boston Public Schools, Department of Adult Education; Julie’s Family Learning Program, South Boston; Mujeres Unidas Avanzando (MUA), Dorchester; and Worcester Public Schools, Worcester Adult Learning Center. 

The participating adult literacy program sites will implement an early literacy strategy that integrates the new family literacy initiative with their existing adult literacy program, and staff at these programs will complete training in early childhood literacy development to enhance their capacity to support parents and families.  Educators will be able to create and manage online classrooms for parents and students via the IBM Reading Companion website.  Both parents and children will have access to and benefit from the software, which will track the increase in their language and literacy skills over time.  The four programs will work with EEC’s local Coordinated Family and Community Engagement (CFCE) network, and the children’s museums, public libraries, and community centers in their area, to inform families of the availability of the new family literacy services, and IBM Reading Companion software, at their sites.

IBM’s donation of Young Explorer Computers and access to related professional development webinars and technical assistance will support early education and care preschool programs participating in the state’s Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) at Level 3 or higher that operate on a full-day and full-year basis and serve children with high needs.  

"IBM congratulates Massachusetts, which earned Race to the Top grants," said Cathleen Finn, IBM New England Corporate Citizenship Manager.  "Massachusetts is clearly in the vanguard when it comes to providing innovative educational models for their school-aged children.  We thought it was only right that the private sector, led by IBM, support its efforts by providing exciting technology and expert services that can be a valuable component of their programs." 

 

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About the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care

The Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) is focused on strengthening the system of early education and care in Massachusetts as a critical element of the education pipeline from cradle to career.  The work of the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) is steeped in the notion that brain building is in progress for young children in enriching environments with caring adults and meaningful and engaging interactions.  The latest science shows that these early experiences actually build the architecture of the developing brain; much like a house is built from the bottom up.  We know that children's earliest experiences are especially important because building the human brain begins even before birth; a strong foundation in early years greatly increases the chance of long-term positive outcomes.   To raise awareness of the critical importance of fostering the cognitive, social and emotional development of young children by emphasizing its future impact on economic development and prosperity for everyone in Massachusetts, EEC launched the Brain Building in Progress campaign.  For more information about EEC’s programs and services, visit www.mass.gov/eec.  For more information on the science of brain building and the importance of healthy child development, visit www.brainbuildinginprogress.org