Category 2 – Public Service
Literacy Empowers All Families (LEAF)
Seana Mincy and Cheray Keyes-Shima, APR, CPRC
Situation Analysis: The Early Learning Coalition of Sarasota County (ELC) is taking part in a new community-wide literacy initiative called Literacy Empowers All Families (LEAF). The ELC has been tasked with developing a social marketing campaign to promote early literacy skills in young children ages 0-5 by engaging and educating Sarasota County parents about the benefits of reading and communicating more with their children. Since parents are often a child’s first and most important teacher, the primary target audience for the LEAF social marketing campaign are parents of children between the ages zero to five years old – with special concentration on Sarasota’s lower income families*. Secondary audiences include elected officials and early education community leaders, public school educators and middle school aged children with siblings ages 5 and under.
Research: “The seeds of literacy are planted long before children begin formal instruction,” National Reading Panel, 2000. *The Hart and Risely Study revealed that by age three, a child’s trends in the amount of talk, vocabulary, and style of interaction are well established. Often referred to as the 30 Million Word Gap Study, this body of research demonstrated that children raised in households at or below poverty level are more likely to suffer from a 30 million word loss – resulting in a negative impact to a child’s IQ. Primary/formal research was also conducted through a telephone survey to establish a base-line for determining what the attitudes, opinions and behaviors are of parents in Sarasota County as they relate to early literacy development (polled a sample: + or – 5% of target audience). Data collected from our primary research showed that Sarasota parents did understand the importance of early literacy development (over 90%). Therefore, the educational component as to why parents should care about their child’s literacy development was not as important as the how to instructional component. Based on these research findings and the targeted audiences, the following objectives were established.
Objectives: 1) Increase the amount of time parents are talking, listening and reading to their child by minimum of 15 minutes a day. 2) Engage 25% of both the primary and secondary audiences combined for carrying and implementing the LEAF campaign message. 3) Secure three partnerships valued at a minimum of $20,000.
Implementation: A key component of the LEAF social marketing campaign is the messaging. A simple, action oriented message needed to be crafted to ensure maximum impact for effectively communicating the “how to” component for improving early literacy development. Your Child’s Success is as Easy as: 1) Talk 2) Listen 3) Read was adopted for the LEAF campaign message. A campaign mascot of a scholarly bookworm, named Leaf, was created and bright colors and childlike font treatments were used to enhance and support the campaign message. Chosen tools to communicate the campaign message included mass transit PSAs, rack cards, bookmarks, posters, flyers, television commercials and PSAs and print ads. Mediums used to promote the Talk, Listen, Read message are public broadcast and network television, outdoor advertising (bus shelters), Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT), the Internet and magazines. Live walking communication channels were developed as well; supporting this effort was the development of LEAF’s Champion Program. Consisting of elected officials, school principals, librarians and middle school children, LEAF’s Champion Program was designed to train and support those groups that could act as ambassadors for the LEAF message. Featured activities for adult champion members included reading days to young children and daily reading by middle school students to their younger siblings under the age of five. To support middle school students residing in lower income areas, designated LEAF Book Centers were created in select school media centers. The development of a LEAF Web site (www.growingmindsread.org) and parent/child LEAF membership program are also key strategies for supporting early literacy development. Driving traffic to the LEAF URL address has been done through all print and electronic advertising and PSA promotion efforts as well as through the communication efforts of LEAF’s Champions. Also supporting parents with their literacy development efforts was the creation of the LEAF membership program, which provides members with new books, an activity booklet, and monthly electronic communications called Leaf’s Lessons that contain fun easy to do literacy activities. Helping to both communicate the LEAF campaign message and its free educational support materials has been LEAF’s major partners, which include PBS’s WEDU, Talaris Institute, ABC-7, Lamar Outdoor, SCAT, Sarasota County School Board, and Sarasota’s YMCA and Boys & Girls Club centers.
Evaluation: In a representative sample of Sarasota County parents with children ages 0 to 5, 100% responded that their talking, listening and reading time with their children had increased by 15 minutes a day, 24% said it had increased by 30 minutes or more. With the development of LEAF’s Champion Program, 24 elementary principals (serving 18,593 students) and nine middle school principals (serving 9,480 students) are supporting and carrying the LEAF message. In addition, almost 500 Sarasota County parents are actively supporting and acting on the LEAF message. Other LEAF Champions include the Sarasota County Superintendant, School Board, Sarasota County Commissioners, County Librarians, and Boys & Girls Club and YMCA leadership. As a result of the membership and champion programs, 10% of the primary audience and 100% of the secondary audience is carrying and implementing the LEAF message! Moreover, 7 organizations have partnered with the LEAF campaign contributing significantly to its success.
Budget: As a result of these partnerships, $71,928 in in-kind donations has been made to support this community-wide literacy campaign. The expense and sponsor breakdown is: Print ads - $2,450, Television Ads- $31,020 (In-kind $31,020), Marketing Fees- $22,800 (In-kind $22,800), Marketing & Membership Materials $12,610, Mass Transit- $750 for printing/space donated valued at $13,500, Bus Shelter Ads-$10,450 (Donated/$4,608). Total: $80,080, Total Partnership Donation Value: $71,928.