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‘Play to Learn’ program boosts school readiness

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TWC News: ‘Play to Learn’ program boosts school readiness
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New mother Naomi Marcus just wasn't sure how to best help her young daughter learn.

"Have that outlet so we could do something together instead of just sitting in front of the TV," she said.

That's why Naomi joined Play to Learn--a childhood educational intervention program developed by United Way for Greater Austin and Samsung.

"We're talking about children who are entering Pre-K even," Sue Carpenter with United Way for Greater Austin said. "When they're four years old and they're two years behind in language development."

Play to Learn teaches low-income parents how to be better educators for their preschool children. Through classroom instruction and coaching, parents learn reading, singing and storytelling skills.

"Sometimes the families don't even have books in their homes, so by the time they're done, they have a nice little library and now they also know how to use the public library to supplement those resources," Carpenter said.

To help bridge the technology gap, families also get to use a tablet loaded with educational apps and internet access.

"So they're learning about how to use educational apps, how to access the Internet to get good content, and if they come to all the sessions, we let them keep the tablet,” Carpenter said. "The families who participated in this talked to their children more, played with their children more. Sang songs with them, told stories of their family more."

Organizers say a study of about 200 families in the program has shown significant improvement children’s' in school readiness.

Naomi Marcus says it's made a difference with her daughter.

"Her communication skills are a lot better," she said.

Ready to Learn is just one part of the United Way's Success by Six early childhood development and educational programs. Visit UnitedWayAustin.org

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