V is for very excited reading toddlers!

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In Laredo, Texas VISTA members are addressing poverty from very early beginnings. Doris Villarreal and Zhong (Joe) Liu with the HEB Read 3 Program are helping little ones to a head start with a love for reading and learning. The goal is to encourage parents to share a passion of reading at home.

Doris and Joe have been successful at recruiting nearly 100 volunteers throughout the year to provide workshops that educate parents on how to nurture a child’s craving to learn. These workshops are a family initiative that encourage the whole family to have fun while learning. Parents are taught to rate kids books, how to read in a manner that makes the stories come to life and are even offered nutrition classes. Workshops consist of five two-hour sessions in which 2 and 3-year-olds are taught songs, numbers, letters, and shapes. The workshops are structured in a way that parents and children begin and end sessions together. Children participating in the program get to work with tutors while parents are taught strategies to get their child to be enthusiastic about story time. Parents are also educated on providing a good nutrition and how the right foods can help facilitate learning.

At the end, parents and children pledge to read at least three times a week.  To measure the success of the program, Joe created child surveys and parent surveys to determine if the children were in fact benefiting from the workshops. The surveys tested for letter recognition, number counting, shape recognition, print recognition, and book awareness. Surveys showed that most children that had completed the program almost doubled in letter recognition, a big feat for a 3-year-old.

Doris mentioned that a lot of the children who take advantage of Read 3 are children who may have missed the opportunity to go to head start because they did not quite reach the adequate age by enrollment dates. The Laredo Read 3 VISTAs are excited and proud of the impact they are making to ensure the success of the leaders of tomorrow.