Prairie Lakes Area Education Agency

Texting tips program expands!

November 17, 2015

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We've gained a partner AND added an age group! A new partnership between Prairie Lakes AEA and Northwest AEA offers parents, caregivers, families, the opportunity to receive text messages with quick and easy ideas about how to increase their child’s early language and literacy skills. The TIPS for Tots targets toddlers between 18-36 months, while Pointers for Preschoolers focuses on children between 3-5 years. Both are now available in Spanish.

TIPS for TOTS 
To receive messages via text, text @18-36text to 81010. You can opt-out of messages at anytime by replying, ‘unsubscribe @18-36text’. Trouble using 81010? Try texting @18-36text to (712) 522-2507 instead. 

CONSEJOS para PEQUES
Para recibir mensajes a través de texto, textie @18-36texto al 81010. Usted puede optar por recivir mensajes en cualquier momento respondiendo, ‘anular subscripción @18-36texto’. Problemas usando el 81010? Trate de enviar mensajes de texto @18-36texto al (712) 522-2507 en su lugar.

POINTERS for PRESCHOOLERS
To receive messages via text, text @3-5text to 81010. You can opt-out of messages at anytime by replying, ‘unsubscribe @3-5text’. Trouble using 81010? Try texting @3-5text to (712) 522-2507 instead.

PUNTEROS para PREESCOLARES
Para recibir mensajes a través de texto, textie @3-5texto al 81010. Usted puede optar por recivir mensajes en cualquier momento respondiendo, ‘anular
subscripción @3-5texto’. Problemas usando el 81010? Trate de enviar mensajes de texto @3-5texto al (712) 522-2507 en su lugar.

The program got its start with the help of a University of Northern Iowa practicum student who worked with the Prairie Lakes AEA Early Childhood Department.  A survey asked parents if they were interested in receiving text messages with quick and easy ideas about how to increase their child’s early language and literacy skills. Given the strong interest in receiving short concise tips that could easily be incorporated into daily routines, the “TIPS for Tots” idea emerged. Through a free web-based program known as Remind, subscribers sign up and receive 2-3 text messages each week reminding them of easy ways to assist in their child’s learning. Sample texts from Miss AEA include:

“Ask them about snow; what is that on the ground? Is it cold? What does snow feel like?”  or “Let your child “read” to you.  Let them hold the book, turn the pages, and say what they think is happening.” 

“I believe that Iowa’s goal to ensure that each child is skilled in reading by the third grade cannot be accomplished until we understand the importance of brain development,” said Denise Wasko, chairperson of the the Prairie Lakes AEA Early Childhood Department. “Children’s academic successes at ages 9 and 10 can be attributed to the amount of talk they hear from birth through age 3.”

The concept of using simple text messages to improve literacy outcomes for children is backed by research.  A study sponsored by the National Bureau of Economic Research shows that mobile technology may be an inexpensive, effective aid for improved childhood literacy and parental involvement. 440 families with 4-year-old students enrolled in a public preschool in San Francisco were followed in the study. Half of the parents received texts three times a week for eight months with messages like, “Say ‘ttt’ in taco and tomato,”or “Let your child hold the book. Follow the words with your finger from left to right.”  The other half of the parents received one text message every two weeks with simple information about kindergarten enrollment or vaccinations.

The study found that preschoolers whose parents received the reading tips via text performed better on literacy tests than children whose parents did not receive such messages. Parents who received the literacy texts were far more likely to report pointing out rhyming words or describing pictures in a book to their children than those who received the more general texts. Teachers who were not aware of which parents were placed in which group also reported that those who received the literacy messages asked more questions about their children’s lessons.

According to one of the study’s authors, the increases in parental activity and involvement translated into learning gains for children. The children of parents who received the texts scored significantly higher on a literacy assessment than those in the control group who received the general information text messages. And when the children were given tests of letter and sound recognition, those whose parents had received the literacy texts had scores that indicated they were about two to three months ahead of those children whose parents had received only the general information texts.

“As educators, we understand that parental involvement greatly impacts a child’s future,” said Marcie Lentsch, PLAEA Early Childhood Leadership & Learning Consultant Literacy Coach. “Technology-driven tools, such as texting, may be the next innovative approach to inform and empower parents and ensure every child has the best possible chance at success.  Early childhood experiences impact the rest of a child’s life!”

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