Two minutes is all you need to teach a child something new. That is the strategy County Executive Allan Kittleman touted on Monday at the launch of his latest education initiative, a free library of educational videos available to all county residents aimed at preparing children for kindergarten.
The program, called ReadyRosie, is a subscription based website that provides instructional videos in English and Spanish through texts and emails to encourage educational engagement between parents and their children.
Each video is under two minutes and contains a word bank with concepts for parents to then reinforce with their children, such as "count" and "near and far." The videos model everyday activities that parents can then do with their children to help better prepare them to enter school.
"Parents are their child's first and best teacher, and ReadyRosie is something simple they can do to make a difference," Kittleman said. "This is an opportunity to provide parents with a little extra help if they're not sure what they can do best for their kids."
ReadyRosie is the second program unveiled as part of Kittleman's Achieve 24/7 education initiative, aimed at closing the achievement gap for youth throughout the county. Kittleman launched the first initiative, the Weekend Warrior Snack Pack program, in June to provide healthy meals to children over the weekend throughout the summer.
Howard is the first county in Maryland to offer ReadyRosie for free to all residents. The program was piloted last school year in Cradlerock and Laurel Woods elementary schools, and in 2015 in Deep Run Elementary School, according to Lisa Davis, the Howard County schools' coordinator for early childhood education.
The county's year long subscription to the program costs $40,000, and Keri Hyde, the administrator for the Office of Children and Families, said she hopes to see ReadyRosie used by thousands of families across the county. Hyde said the county worked closely with ReadyRosie developers to roll out the program, and aligned the content with state school curriculum.
The school readiness website was launched in 2011 in Texas by former music teacher and educational consultant Emily Roden, and since then has been implemented in schools, libraries and non-profits throughout the country. Davis said officials first learned about ReadyRosie at a National Association for the Education of Young Children conference three years ago.
Councilwoman Mary Kay Sigaty, who served as chair on the county's Early Childhood Education Action Group, was also present at the launch. The task force was formed by Kittleman in 2015 to examine ways to expand pre-kindergarten opportunities for children in the county.
"I'm thrilled that we will be utilizing our mobile technology and this phone and these tablets that we rely on to give us information, to help us see how important it will be to put the phone down, to turn it off and to utilize what we've learned through it in a face-to-face, active, playful environment with our children," Sigaty said.
Interim Superintendent Michael Martirano also spoke at the event; the two collaborated on the launch of the Weekend Warrior program earlier this year. Achieve 24/7 aligns with Martirano's own focus on equity for all students in the county, an education plan he's titled "Learning and Leading with Equity: The Fierce Urgency of Now."
"Programs such as ReadyRosie and the 24/7 initiative acknowledge the fact that the parent is the primary teacher of the child, and that we need to do everything that we can to support our parents," Martirano said.
The event was hosted at the Good Beginnings Child Care and Preschool in Laurel. Owner Dawn Randall said she plans to encourage parents at the school to use ReadyRosie, and that the program is a "wonderful" addition of support to parents that gives a clear outline of how to start engagement with children.
At the launch Kittleman showed a video of himself using the program with one of Randall's students, Naomi, to count blocks.
"It's as simple as that, and what you saw us looking at was a video of another parent doing the same thing that I was doing with Naomi. You can look at it for two minutes, you learn about how it is, and then you do it yourself with your kids," Kittleman said. "It's very easy to do, and I think very worthwhile."