The Bernard van leer Foundation’s Urban 95 is a global initiative designed to support the thriving development and growth of young children across cities in partnership with municipal entities, advocates, and community members.
Tel Aviv-Yafo’s Urban 95 division launched the Jaffa Reads Initiative with the goal to increase Arab-speaking families’ participating rate in reading to their toddlers in the city of Jaffa (Yafo) to reduce literacy gaps. The language development gap between Arab and Jewish children is important and affects future performance starting with elementary school through to university levels in similar rates to bilingual families in other countries.
Overall, the program resulted in an increase in reading behavior across the board. Most surprising was the fact that 30% of the parents who had never read to their children before were still reading to their children one month after the program’s culmination, signaling the successful creation of a new habit and routine at home. There was a very low dropout rate from the program indicating a positive experience and relevancy of content, difficulty level, and incentives. Follow-up surveys indicated that there was a changed view of the role of the family in informal education, as brothers and fathers also participated in reading to young children, not just mothers. In general, parents seemed to have gained a greater overall understanding of the importance of reading to their children and realized they were a driving force in their children’s future. The program’s success also supported a reinforced relationship between the municipality and the community. There are plans to expand the program further across the city of Jaffa, and other Arab-speaking cities in Israel.
Q joined Urban 95’s trainings with parents to provide feedback and to identify behavioral barriers that affect the trainings’ success in creating reading habits and routines.
We conducted literary reviews about efforts and interventions that have taken place in underserved bilingual populations around the world. In order to better understand the specific community, we reviewed Urban 95’s materials about this subgroup’s needs and familial habits, as well as hosted ideation sessions. The ideation sessions involved meaningful education figures from the community, the Urban 95 team, and additional partners (i.e. impact measurement team) to develop creative solutions and explore opportunities together.
Through the process, we uncovered and defined the various barriers affecting this subgroup with regard to reading to their children. Barriers spanned technological, emotional and cultural limitations, including: a lack of availability of Arabic books for young children, missing knowledge of literary Arabic (versus conversational), and the cultural fact that most of these parents weren’t read to at home when they were children.
Additionally, most parents were unaware of the level of impact that an informal education effort, like reading to their children, could lead to. They also tended to believe that the role of educating belongs primarily to the teachers and caretakers. We found this demographic to be highly motivated and invested in their childrens’ success, so we harnessed this motivation and reframed the reading activities as an influential part of their childrens’ future success.
We designed a 4-week intervention plan that consisted of in-person workshops with parents and children, in which the parents had their own dedicated time to express their challenges and needs. They had joint time to practice reading with the kids in a supporting group atmosphere alongside an instructor. The families also received two books to take home to remove the access barrier and to generate excitement.
We initiated a series of nudges that were delivered three times a week before the children’s bedtime with tips, encouragement, and small bites of actionable information reiterating the techniques that were taught in the workshops. We also launched a competition amongst the kindergartens (as a community incentive), in which the one whose parents read the most to their children would win a library for the respective school.