With Help of New Program, Montana’s Children Get ‘Ready 2 Read’

State Library rolls out free text message program to build early literacy skills

By Clare Menzel
A child reads at the library. Beacon File Photo

This month, ImagineIF Libraries are promoting Ready 2 Read, a statewide program that teaches caregivers how to help their children develop early literacy skills like letter recognition, narrative skills, and the ability to break down a word into sounds.

The free program sends caregivers three text messages per week with conversation starters and tips for deepening a discussion. Ready 2 Read’s objective is to help parents recognize teachable moments and integrate literacy learning into everyday activities.

“It’s good to get caregivers interacting with kids and having extended conversations,” said Martha Furman, the Kalispell ImagineIF Library youth services librarian. “They learn more vocab, they have more positive interactions.”

The texts start out with simple, basic questions for children and rudimentary tips for caregivers. Over the course of the eight-month program, the texts offer increasingly complex prompts and advice.

An early text might read, “Expand your child’s vocabulary: Repeat something your child says, then add more words to DESCRIBE or EXPLAIN. Your child can learn new words from you today!” The texts caregivers will receive toward the end of the program are still in development.

“Research shows that children who start kindergarten armed with a set of early literacy skills not only succeed in school, but also in life,” said Sara Groves, Ready 2 Read project director at the Montana State Library. “The Ready 2 Read texting program will help parents and caregivers learn about these skills and help their kiddos develop them through easy practices families can do every day at home, like reading, singing, talking, playing and writing together.”

Those five activities comprise the American Library Association’s set of practices for forming early literacy skills, and, as Furman said, “everything a child needs to know comes out of those things.” She remembers seeing a father and his child playing at the library—as they built a Lego house he shared vocabulary words like contractor, foundation, and ventilation.

The texting program is particularly valuable in rural areas, where families may not be able to visit the library and want to build early literacy skills in the home.

Caregivers can enroll in the program by texting the word “signup” to (406) 204-3583, and can unsubscribe by texting the word “stop” to the same number. You do not need a library card to subscribe.


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