As lovers of books and innovation, we’re always on the lookout for new technology and methods to promote early literacy. So when we discovered ReadAskChat, we knew we hit gold!
(*Parents, this one’s for you!)
About the App
ReadAskChat is a digital app for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers and helps families have fun reading together, while promoting early literacy. Unlike most education apps —which tend to be digital versions of worksheets, puzzles, or games— ReadAskChat meets the four criteria that experts say is the gold standard for being effective. Those criteria are active thinking, deep engagement, meaningful content, and social interaction.
A few reasons why that’s so important.
- It is estimated that 80% of brain development occurs in the first 3 years of life.
- A Stanford Study published in 2013 found that by the age of 3, there is a 30 million word gap between children from the wealthiest and poorest families (Fernald, Marchman, & Weisleder 2013).
- Another study by Susan Neuman and Donna Celano estimated that each child in middle- income neighborhoods had access to 13 books, while in low-income neighborhoods the ratio was one book per 300 children (Neuman & Celano 2001).
We got the chance to catch up with ReadAskChat’s co-founder and early childhood educator, Carolyn Saper and here’s what she had to add. Like most great ideas, the project came from a personal experience that left a mark.
Connecting with Carolyn Saper
“The real inspiration was personal,” Saper started. “I adopted my daughter and when she came home at 9 months – she was delayed. She could not sit up, her little neck wasn’t strong enough to look around, she had no language, she only weighted 9 lbs. (…) And in only a month, she went from failure to thrive to a completely caught up 10-month old baby. And what I was doing wasn’t magic. I was holding her, talking with her, singing to her, reading to her – that was the spark.”
“What happens when you do something as simple as read and talk and sing and hold, it seems like magic but its science. The other part we’ve been thinking about (and lamenting) has been these test are only testing what can be easily quantified. But learning and imagination can’t be quantified that way. These small quantifiable things. Its all wrong. We need to cultivate creative play, imaginative play.” Creative and imaginative play is something Chicago Public Library Foundation donors fund through investments in Chicago Public Library’s early learning spaces.
The PNC Partnership
Given the mission alignment and similarities in approach, asking ReadAskChat to join PNC’s Words to Grow On made all the sense in the world – and has ben an incredible value add for program participants. “Parents need to be told, educated and informed that imagination is the key to early learning,” Saper explained. “So we created modules for families to interact with each other and CPL staff to show them how much fun it can be to do all of those critical things that science shows, makes a difference.”
Through our partnership with ReadAskChat, the app is FREE and accessible to Chicago Public Library participants of PNC’s Words to Grow On program. For those who are not program participants, the app is only $14.99 for the full library for a full year – significantly less than other early literacy apps in the marketplace. All supporting the collective effort to address the disparity of books, in low-income households. But, as Carolyn, adds “You don’t have to be economically depressed to be excited about ReadAskChat. We’re doing something really exciting with early childhood literacy – and its not just a talking point; its something we’re really trying to do something about.”
To learn more about Carolyn’s work and ReadAskChat, visit their website! To support learning programs at Chicago Public Library that help parents and their children develop the critical building blocks to literacy, we invite you to make a generous gift here. Words to Grow On is a program sponsored by PNC Bank, we thank them for their continued partnership and for demonstrating what it is to be #dedicatedtothecurious.