SMART PROGRAMS 2015 & 2016
SMART Family Literacy provides educational outreach programs for young children and their families. Our vocabulary rich programs involve reading children's books in informal social settings. We provide fun hands-on activities in science, math, art, reading, and technology (SMART) to improve reading comprehension. Vegetable gardening and nutrition information is a recurring theme.
We strive to reach as many as we can who are educationally at risk, and we believe that literacy is the most powerful tool in fighting poverty. Through volunteer training and recruiting, we also reach hundreds of teen and college students who learn about children’s literacy and parenting. We maintain flexibility to customize our programs creatively to meet the specific needs of audiences and to partner with many other organizations, including schools, child care and community centers, and businesses. Program titles vary, but there are consistent elements.
Giving books to children is a primary activity in most of the programs of SMART Family Literacy. Book Giving is a project with its own goals and procedures. Children’s books are like tools, because for every job, we need the right tool. Sturdy board books for babies and toddlers, picture books, early readers, chapter books, bilingual, nonfiction or fiction, early concept books, singable books, and books about healthy foods are all selected for use in our programs and are matched with the ages, cultures, needs and interests of the readers or potential readers, and their situations. We count the books that are given, but the number of books is only one indication of the accomplishments of the program. We assess the quality of our programs with other measurements and continuously work to improve, innovate and create. For example, we know that a conversation between a parent and a professional educator or pediatrician is a high quality opportunity for the parent to learn the importance of reading to babies and toddlers. We also appreciate the importance of creating a culture of book readers and givers and encourage recycling of used books and sharing with others.
Programs for families – Parents participate with young children.
At SMART programs, we read aloud with groups of parents and children together (PACT) and we model how to read to young children in the presentations. Then we give books to the children to keep. For example, we have presented the last session of the Incredible Years parenting series and read “Growing Vegetable Soup” and “I Like it When” in both English and Spanish. On the page that says, “I like it when we play peekaboo,” we play peekaboo with the book and explain that the action combined with words helps teach what the words mean. Nutrition education is included by reading the nutrition facts on cans of vegetables or other packages and pointing out the sodium content and why it is important for health. A hands-on water color painting activity links the books to language in a creative way. Our presentations with families go by several titles with slight variations:
SMART Parties include mystery boxes wrapped like gifts, but used as a guessing and thinking game. All members of the family try to figure out the contents by shaking the boxes.
SMART Family Garden Clubs take place in school gardens and include planting seeds and harvesting herbs and vegetables.
Read and Seed Days take place at community events and also at school gardens, wherever books can be read and vegetable seeds can be planted with families who want to learn.
Family Fun Nights are presented with a catered dinner in partnership with the West Beach Lions Club, which provides a vision screening.
Programs in classrooms – Teachers present, not parents
SMART Early Bird is the name given to all of our 30 minute interactive or dialogic reading presentations in classrooms or child care centers. Parents are usually not present, but teachers and aides are in the room. We visit kindergarten, preschool, and baby/toddler classrooms. Another variation of this occurred at the Moody Methodist pumpkin patch, where school groups visit the pumpkin patch, so we met them there.
The program involves engaging young children with a hands-on-the-book experience that is adjusted for the developmental abilities of the children. It usually involves teaching them something about vegetables. For example, reading the book “Growing Vegetable Soup” aloud creates an easy transition into a conversation about vegetables.
Kinder Garden Books: Healthy Books for Early Years is a specific subset that will target kindergarten, PK4, and PK3 classrooms and will feature books with healthy foods, as well as other health and fitness ideas
Sing a Book: Healthy Books for Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers is a subset that will reach babies, toddlers, and preschoolers with books that can be sung and with healthy food pictures.
Well Child/We Carrot – Parents and children visit pediatricians.
For this program, which is a variation of the national Reach Out and Read program, SMART provides books for pediatricians to give to children during well child visits. There are fourteen visits recommended from birth to age 5. Pediatricians have an important opportunity to influence parents, as they read a book with the child and point to their observations of the child’s responses and the link to development. SMART specifically selects and provides books that are age appropriate and relevant to healthy foods, gardening, sleep, movement, and fitness.
SMART Capture Video and Website Project – Digital outreach to everyone
SMART Capture combines the talents of local artists with educational objectives to create short educational videos for parents to watch with young children. The videos, no longer than 2 ½ minutes, are featured on our website on the parents page, at the children's area of the Galveston County Food Bank, and at other family events. The webpages are used to extend the short presentation topic and to link to outside resources, such as articles in pediatrics journals. In 2016, SMART Capture will be presented at family programs and community events with a specific effort to link the videos to children’s book titles. We will bring books to the events and read the books aloud following the video presentations. For example, we will present “Where Do All the Colors Come From?” followed by reading “Mouse Paint” or “Nate the Great.”
Every Home Needs Literacy – Ongoing book drive and outreach with educational book marks
Rather than giving books to those who are educationally at risk, this program reaches out to the entire community with the educational message to read to babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. Tips for parents are printed on book marks in Spanish on one side and English on the other. A house-shaped collection box, resembling a doll house, is hosted by a different business each month, where gently used children’s books are donated to SMART Family Literacy. The books are later distributed by SMART to many partners, but especially to the book bins in UTMB Pediatric Clinics, where children from birth to age 18 may select a book following a visit to the doctor.