St. Louis, MO—November 11, 2020—On Friday, November 13, a caravan of Nine Network vans will arrive at Wilkinson Early Childhood Center, the first stop in distributing 900 PBS Playtime Pads and early literacy learning kits across 44 public elementary schools. The project was created specifically for Saint Louis Public Schools (SLPS) and is made possible through a grant awarded to the Nine Network through Missouri CARES Act Funding.
Implemented through a collaborative effort by leading local literacy organizations, Turn the Page STL and St. Louis Black Authors of Children’s Literature, the project prioritizes the need to address existing literacy gaps through books and digital devices. The selected books are featured on Nine’s Teaching in Room 9 on-air classroom series and are written by local Black authors.
According to Alex Stallings, Director of Early Learning, Nine Network, the project supports Nine’s goal of hurdling over the digital divide to support literacy for young learners, where 1 in 3 children across the community are without the reliable internet or digital devices they need to participate in remote learning.
“Having a rich exposure to literacy before kindergarten is essential to being able to read proficiently by the end of third grade, which contributes to long-term academic outcomes and personal well-being,” says Lisa Greening, Project Manager, Turn the Page STL (the St. Louis Chapter of the National Campaign for Grade-Level Reading). “By providing quality books, resources, and digital devices for families with preschool children, we are making a wise and impactful investment in the future of the children in our community.”
“Many children in St. Louis do not have access to picture books that include main characters that look like them and tell stories that reflect their cultural experiences. We believe, for Black children, culturally responsive literature builds confidence and that important desire to read. We are excited because this partnership will give many children copies of books that speak directly to them,” says Julius B. Anthony, President, St. Louis Black Authors of Children’s Literature.
The school district has expanded technology and access to students in efforts to support the accelerated rise of virtual learning brought on by the pandemic. “We want to support the district’s efforts to provide not only these digital devices but support targeted programming, resources, and internet access to students in underserved zip codes,” Stallings says. “The beauty of this technology is that once the initial setup is completed by the parent or teacher, the Playtime Pad is self-contained and designed to function with or without the internet, which is particularly helpful in areas where the signal might not be as strong or access is limited.” In addition, the related educational episodes on Teaching in Room 9 are accessible both on air and online by visiting Nine’s website, ninenet.org.
Dr. Samantha March, SLPS Interim Director of Early Childhood Education, says the district will put the devices in the hands of four-year-old children across the district to help prepare them for the transition to kindergarten. “We are so excited to be the beneficiary of Playtime Pads to reinforce curricula for our preschoolers who will be able to use the devices in completing lessons at school or at home and to support reading success and enhance vocabulary work.”
About Nine Network of Public Media
Nine Network of Public Media is a multifaceted organization creating a network of individuals and organizations empowered by public media to strengthen civic life. One of the nation’s most watched public television stations, Nine Network offers the people of the St. Louis region multiple ways to explore the world and become engaged in civic life. Nine’s platforms include four distinct broadcast channels (Nine PBS, Nine World, Nine Create, and Nine PBS KIDS®), the Nine Center for Public Engagement, the Public Media Commons, social media, and online. Nine Network’s rich legacy of serving the community was launched in 1954 and continues through our vision of a strong and healthy community working together through public media and our mission of igniting the spirit of possibility.
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