August 2, 2021

Free Text Messaging Service for Families Aims to Improve Children’s Literacy

LANSING – A new public library service for families, called “TALK: Text and Learn for Kindergarten,” will help build early literacy skills for young children, the Library of Michigan announced today.

TALK sends two text messages each week suggesting early literacy activities that parents and caregivers can easily incorporate into daily routines with their children.

The service also notifies parents of free activities and services at their local public libraries. TALK is available to parents and caregivers in Michigan with children ages 5 and under. Parents can sign up by texting TALK to 75547 or visiting Text and Learn for Kindergarten.

“The more parents and caregivers speak positively, read, and listen to young children, the better prepared children will be in their emerging literacy when they begin school,” said State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice. “TALK is another support we can provide for our families to help meet the state’s Top 10 strategic education plan goal of improving early literacy achievement.”

“TALK is a great resource for all parents, but it’s really designed to reach parents who may not have a lot of free time or resources” said Jodi Krahnke, the head of youth services at the Ypsilanti District Library. “We’re excited to provide parents ideas for quick and easy things they can do to help their children be ready for school.”

The service is funded in part by a national leadership grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The grant allows TALK, originally created by libraries in Washtenaw County, to be used by all public libraries in Michigan to support early learning in their communities.

State Librarian Randy Riley said, “TALK is a great opportunity for libraries to engage and encourage families to practice simple activities each day with their young children, such as singing and playing, which then helps to develop the cognitive and language skills they need to do well in school and beyond.”

TALK is derived from the research-based program Every Child Ready to Read, which promotes five practices to build essential pre-reading skills: reading, singing, talking, writing and playing. Each message begins with one of the five practices and details an activity that parents can use to help their child develop early literacy skills. The content goes beyond literacy and helps parents build other important skills such as pre-math and social emotional skills.

While the service is available and valuable to every family, the goal is to reach parents who may not otherwise have the time or the ability to attend library programs. It is available in English and Spanish.

This project is led by the Ypsilanti District Library (YDL) and any requests for additional information can be made to YDL’s head of youth services, Jodi Krahnke, at TextAndLearn@gmail.com. The technology platform to distribute the messages is being developed by the Midwest Collaborative for Library Services, and materials to promote the service will be available to libraries through the Library of Michigan. HighScope Center for Early Education Research and Evaluation helped ensure messages were aligned to a child’s development and will be conducting an evaluation of the project.

This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services [LG-246434-OLS-20] with support from the Library of Michigan.