ApSeed: Supporting our Youngest Readers
By Jeanna Baxter White - Davie County Blog
“We aren’t looking for advocates anymore, we are looking for accomplices and we have them in Davie County,” says Greg Alcorn, founder of ApSeed Early Childhood Education. “The Mebane Foundation has been the rockstar of all partners for ApSeed.”
The Mebane Foundation and ApSeed Early Childhood Education joined forces last spring to increase literacy scores among at-risk children in Davie County by providing a free e-Reader preloaded with applications designed to help children start school kindergarten-ready. From music that will soothe a newborn to games that teach simple spelling and math, the tablet’s carefully selected apps meet the developmental needs of children from birth to kindergarten.
“ApSeed strives to help children stay age proficient at home, so they can be grade proficient in school,” said Alcorn. “Our goal is to provide a Seedling to every socioeconomically disadvantaged child 0-4 years old. We believe the ApSeed Project will level the playing field while also being a tool for real and lasting enrichment.”
Through a $105,000 grant from the Foundation, almost 1,000 custom-built tablets, called Seedlings, have been distributed free of charge to children 0-4 whose families are enrolled in the WIC program through the Davie County Department of Public Health, Parents as Teachers through Smart Start of Davie County, or Davie County’s NC Pre-K program.
“We’re always on the lookout for best practices and resources to support our youngest readers, with this partnership and with the Seedling I believe we’ve hit a home run!” said Larry Colbourne, president of the Foundation.
Colbourne believes the Seedling is a valuable tool to support DavieLEADS, a five-year early literacy initiative funded by a $2.5 million grant from the Mebane Foundation. The initiative seeks to improve kindergarten readiness from 70% to 90 percent and to increase reading proficiency in third grade from 60 percent to 80 percent by 2022.
In order to receive a Seedling, parents must provide their email address and agree to complete a short, five-question survey which is emailed every 90 days. ApSeed measures the results of the surveys in order to evaluate the effectiveness of the Seedling and to continue perfecting its programming. Questions include 1. How are you using the Seedling? 2. How much per day? What is your child’s favorite app? 4. What is your child learning? 5. What is the Seedling doing for you as a parent?
It is too early to make research-based conclusions in Davie County, but Alcorn said the ApSeed internal survey results have been favorable and no one has expressed that their child has experienced boredom or burnout with the device.
Responses have included: “At first he couldn’t say the alphabet but now he can use ALL of the letters,” “likes tracking letters and is trying to learn to spell words,” “the twins were born early and their speech is behind but now they are catching up,” “I can hear her singing with the tablet,” and “plays with it until the battery is dead.”
Usage by age has been consistent with Rowan County. Children begin with the music app and transition to letters and numbers as they get older. ApSeed’s analysis for Davie County explained the progression.
“Under the age of one, the music player (Pulsar) app is used the most. Pulsar can play songs over and over, meaning the Seedling can allow the infant to listen to pleasant music. Since the parent/caregiver is operating the Seedling, bonding is the most helpful value the Seedling does for the family.
Age one shows a significant increase in the child focusing. Favorite apps become shapes and colors. The brain is forming allowing the child to want to focus. Another striking development is the parent/caregiver is teaching their child. Now the child is a little less dependent on the parent/caregiver but just enough to be taught. At this stage, the child is learning how to learn to read.
Ages two and three show an amazing increase in learning colors and shapes. Parents notice this as well. The child is learning to read. Therefore, bonding decreases because the child is more independent.
At age four children use the 123 Numbers and ABC Kids apps the most because they have already learned the colors and shapes. These apps encourage tracing letters and numbers, so the children are learning to write. We have observed children tracing their letters on the Seedling, then grabbing a piece of paper to try to replicate what they just learned demonstrating the child is ready to learn to read. The Seedling is so familiar by age four that it is very easy to use. At this stage, the child is ready to enter Kindergarten at the age proficiency of the other children.”
Based on what ApSeed has learned, the apps are arranged on the tablet in age-proficiency order. Alcorn says this will help parents help their child be kindergarten-ready. Ideally, a child should spend about 400 hours over the four years using the Seedling.
“Students less than 50% proficient in school are less likely to catch up. It’s too late when a child is in the 8th month of third grade to expect them to be able to make up for six years of not being close to age proficient and to expect them to pass the end-of-grade reading test. That’s what we are charged up about, helping children get to where they are supposed to be.”
ApSeed is now brainstorming ways to increase parent/caregiver response rates. “We want to figure out if there are additional things we should be doing to reach out to parents to find out how well the Seedling is working for their child since the response rate to our surveys is about 25%,” said Alcorn. “Most would say that’s a great return but it’s not to me. We want to be able to take a comprehensive look at the other 75% in order to know if the responses we are getting from the 25% are representative of the children as a whole.”
“We want to identify any additional needs the children might have because we have room for more apps. We also have six tutorial videos about operating the device that we’d like to get to parents.”
ApSeed also hopes to expand its social media presence so that everyone learns about the benefits of the Seedling. “The ideal situation would be to have every parent/caregiver and every person involved in the child’s life on our Facebook so that they support each other and get guidance from each other.”
“Eventually, we would like to get to where the Seedling is recognized as valuable for all of North Carolina so that it can be distributed through public funding instead of just private funding, that’s our next goal.”
Alcorn may soon get his wish. Representatives Horn, Warren, Lucas, and Howard have sponsored a bill to the North Carolina General Assembly recommending that the Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Child Development and Early Education, establish a three-year pilot project to implement the ApSeed program in Forsyth, Hoke, New Hanover, Watauga, and Yadkin Counties beginning in July 2019.
ApSeed Early Childhood Education is privately funded through foundations and donations. For more information about ApSeed visit apseed.org or call (980) 643-0451.
The Mebane Charitable Foundation supports collaborations and partnerships among educational professionals (public and private), business leaders, elected officials, and the community at large. The Foundation focuses resources on ensuring that all children have the opportunity to reach their highest potential in school, career, and life. Visit MebaneFoundation.com.
February 11th 2019 - Erik Lipscomb
The stretch of road that all children know is having a birthday. Sesame Street and the colorful creatures that live there are turning 50 this year.
CBS Sunday Morning celebrated the upcoming event by giving viewers a backstage look at the show. Sesame Street has been educating children since it first aired on November 10, 1969. Sesame Street has been a huge influence on ApSeed as we are both helping children prepare for Kindergarten. When designing the Seedling, we looked to Sesame Street for inspiration. We wanted to make a portable and interactive device that mirrored what they were trying to teach.
Sesame Street will live on for many generations to come as the foundation for scholastic success has not changed. Much like Sesame Street, ApSeed is committed to making sure that every child walks into Kindergarten with these skills mastered.
Please join ApSeed and generations of people around the world in saying “Happy 50th Sesame Street!” and thank you.
7 Dumb Things We All Say
Nobody wants to say dumb things. But we all do. The first step towards reducing the number of dumb things you say is to know what the dumb things are. Based on thirty years of research with millions and millions of conversations, this book contains the secrets of overcoming these blunders:
Using Bad Bookends
Starting with Wrong First Words
Not Choosing Your Words Well
Poor Questions and Bad Listening
Not Diffusing Difficult Drama
7 Dumb Things We All Say is quick and enjoyable reading. Action strategies are clearly outline and prove a road map to success. If you are serious about communicating well—and like a spot of humor along the way—then this is the book for you.
February 5th 2019 - Erik Lipscomb
Today ApSeed and The City of Salisbury joined together to provide Seedlings to City employees with children ages 0-4. Mayor Al Heggins, Mayor Pro Tem David Post, and City Council Member Karen Alexander were in attendance to help assign the first eight Seedlings to excited City employees.
The employees were given the short tutorial on how to instruct their children to use the Seedling. They were also made aware that ApSeed supplies FREE REPLACEMENTS for any damaged Seedlings, no questions asked.
This partnership is a dream come true for ApSeed as we fight to get every child in the city we love ready for Kindergarten.
A special thanks to Jennifer Silvia for her leadership in coordinating the event.
January 25th 2019 - Greg Alcorn
Our internal research is telling a nice story. Below is a link to the survey results BY AGE of the child. It’s for Davie County. It shows which apps are most popular as children grow from birth to four years old.
In summary, new born babies listen to the music/lullabies app, then 1-2’s gravitate to the shapes and colors and then the 3-4’s use the apps for numbers and letters. This progression makes a lot of sense.
We can use these findings to coach parents and caregivers on selecting apps and knowing where the child should be in “Seedling proficiency”. And, yes, we just invented that literacy category.
We are still considering third-party, independent research options. For now, it’s full steam ahead toward helping EVERY child become kindergarten-ready.
PS We were honored with the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Service Award. Many thanks to Phyllis Little, Dixie Dalton and Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Salisbury for this recognition. Humbling and Inspiring.