As children and families in the Virgin Islands struggle with the social distancing required in response to the threat of COVID-19, the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands has launched a text-based family engagement curriculum. Called Ready4K in the USVI, it aims to promote child development from birth to fourth grade.
According to Community Foundation President Dee Baecher-Brown, the launch of Ready4K has been in the works at the foundation for several months.
“Before moving ahead, we wanted to check in with our community partners – early childhood care and education service providers and other stakeholders such as physicians – to enlist their assistance and support in enrolling parents and encouraging school and center-based engagement with the platform,” Baecher-Brown said in a release from the foundation.
“As it turns out, this is the perfect time to provide this wonderful tool to our Virgin Islands families,” she said.
Each week, parents and caregivers receive three texts, one on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, with fun facts and easy tips on how to promote their child’s development by building on existing family routines – such as pointing out letters on the cereal box at breakfast, counting the number of steps walking to the car or bus or making feeling faces in the mirror after tooth brushing.
With the unexpected new circumstances, Ready4K is incorporating additional support messages focused on COVID-19 topics such as hygiene, coping with pandemic anxiety and social connection in a virtual world. The Ready4K curriculum covers the child from birth through 4th grade and is available in English, Spanish and Arabic, according to a news release announcing its release.
Those who want to start receiving messages can text the code CFVI to 70138 to start receiving messages today.
By entering your cellphone number you agree to enroll in the program and receive ParentPowered text messages from 70138, the announcement said. Enrollment is free, though data and message rates may apply. The text messages can be stopped at any time by texting STOP to 70138.
“Ready4K helps break down the complexity of conscious, positive parenting into bite-sized pieces that are easy to implement by providing helpful information, encouragement and support to parents continuously over prolonged periods of time,” said Anna Wheatley Scarbriel, the foundation’s director of grants and programs.
“It empowers families with the information and emotional support to act as their child’s first and most important teacher. The whole child curriculum promotes family well-being, positive relationships, child transitions and involvement at school. It’s all about supporting entire families as lifelong learners and leaders,” Scarbriel said.
The Community Foundation has made an initial three-year commitment to offer the Ready4K platform to families in the territory, with funding support for years one and two coming from a grant awarded from ParentPowered PBC, the company that operates Ready4K. The foundation is partnering with local Head Start programs to enroll parents and family members of close to 900 children ages three to four in the territory. The foundation is also working with the Department of Education to enroll thousands more parents of USVI students in grades kindergarten through fourth.
“Our commitment to early childhood education remains steadfast, as does our desire to strengthen the resources available in the USVI, especially during this challenging time” Scarbriel said.
The Ready4K technology platform includes data and analytics on demand, the ability to send custom messages and teacher newsletters that complement the text messages and loop teachers into the conversation. Ready4K also supports ESSA Title 1 Parent and Family Engagement Requirements as well as all of the requirements of the Head Start Compendium of Parenting Interventions.
Schools and other community organizations interested in signing up their parents to use the platform can contact Scarbriel at firstname.lastname@example.org. More information about Ready4K is online here.