Get Georgia Reading At Home Helps Parents, Caregivers Partner With Their Kids in the Learning Process
Our kids can spend time with a good book anywhere—in a tree, at the beach, on a pool float, by a campfire, on a swing, or in the backseat of a car. But when it comes to reading, there’s no place like home.
Recognizing that parents and caregivers are a child’s first and most influential teachers, partners in the Get Georgia Reading Campaign—Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB), Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE), and Georgia Family Connection Partnership (GaFCP)—assembled an array of fun activities parents and caregivers can use to connect with their children at home.
Get Georgia Reading at Home is a comprehensive online catalog that offers early learning resources for children from birth through age 5 and helps develop skills for students in grades K – 3. GaDOE developed parent-friendly versions of the Georgia Early Learning and Development Standards (GELDS) and the Georgia Standards of Excellence aligned with simple offline activities for parents to use at home.
“We combined GPB’s televised programming with online digital resources and printable simple home activity guides that align with learning and development standards up through third grade,” said Get Georgia Reading Campaign Director Arianne Weldon. “That made it possible for us to provide access to learning at home for children with limited or no ability to participate in their local school district’s online learning platforms.”
These resources, developed in response to the pandemic when all schools in Georgia shut their doors last year, will continue to add value to children’s home learning environments even as they return to in-person learning at school. Beyond that, the resources also provide guidance for families on food access, health care, and financial assistance.
“We often assume that parent engagement means only getting involved at school,” said Weldon. “But it’s really about engaging with your own child’s education at school and at home. That crystalized for us this past year when children began to spend considerably more time learning and playing at home due to the pandemic. Meeting their evolving needs became an urgent priority for all of us.”
Weldon pointed out that this aligns with Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education’s seventh issue, Parent Engagement: Positioning Families as Partners, in its Top Ten Issues to Watch in 2021. According to the report, “There are strong indications that the virtual component of learning is here to stay. The only way to prevent significant disruptions, like a pandemic, from deepening inequality for an entire generation is to equip families to support at-home and virtual learning. As Georgia continues to integrate families into the learning process, return on investment comes in the form of improved learning outcomes and empowering parents to be advocates.”
“From the start, public media stations like GPB have transformed how children learn by using television to teach letters, numbers, and social-emotional learning through iconic series such as ‘Sesame Street’ and ‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,’ ” said GPB Director of Education Laura Evans. “Through our partnerships with GaDOE and Get Georgia Reading, GPB is continuing that mission by expanding our digital content to offer free, high-quality learning resources through our Georgia Home Classroom initiative at gpb.org/learn.”
Get Georgia Reading at Home provides parents and caregivers with activities, resources, and data they can use to support their child’s language and literacy development in three categories:
- At Home Online Resources
Free online resources for early learning from birth to age 5 and K – 3, including links to resources for assistance with access to food, income assistance, and health care
- Getting Ready Activities
Activities aligned with academic standards that parents and caregivers can do at home and offline to help get their children ready for their next grade from K – 3
- Georgia Home Classroom
A collaboration between GPB Education and GaDOE to support at-home learning for students in pre-K through 12th grade, including digital learning resources and an instructional broadcast schedule
To make these skills more accessible to families without internet at home, the Getting Ready Activities guides were designed as downloadable PDFs. Taking that a step further, the Campaign initiated the Get Georgia Reading at Home pilot program, which provides supplemental materials to families that live in communities with low broadband access and a high prevalence of COVID-19 infection in the population measured by rate per 100,000.
In addition to these measures, Campaign partners looked into counties that had already participated in resource distribution during the pandemic and provided incentives to the Georgia Family Connection Collaboratives in Burke, Decatur, Hancock, Mitchell, and Sumter counties—with some of the hardest to reach populations in the state—to get the materials to their most vulnerable families.
“Together, GaDOE and Georgia Family Connection Partnership reach a wider audience as we communicate using our trusted and strong relationships with teachers and families,” said Meghan Welch, program specialist at GaDOE. “Through our collaboration, we can make the standards more accessible to parents and families—or anyone working with young children. We’re working to break down barriers of complicated language that might intimidate adults not working in education. We want parents and caregivers to feel confident as they assist with schoolwork and to have a working knowledge of developmentally appropriate skills and standards. We also want them to feel like partners in the work of education, because they always contribute by helping their children meet standards through conversations and activities they already do at home.”
Each pilot county Collaborative received copies of the Get Georgia Reading at Home’s Getting Ready Guide: K – 3rd Grade, postcards about Bright by Text, and $1,200 to work with the local schools to purchase other materials.
“Being a partner in your child’s education at home, especially when you don’t have formal training as a teacher, can be intimidating,” said Weldon. “This effort helps address activities parents and caregivers probably were already intuitively doing—but with intentionality. This was possible because GaDOE had already translated the standards to make them more understandable to families. As a mom, I always hope our educators support my confidence as a parent in engaging with my child’s education, while supporting my role as a partner with the school in educating children. Get Georgia Reading at Home enlists the entire community to get our children primed for school and to help them succeed when they get there.”