Using Social Marketing and Community Engagement to Help Low-Income Children Get Ready to Read

In 2005, AIR was awarded a five-year grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Public Broadcasting System to assist the two organizations in the planning and implementation of the Ready to Learn (RTL) Outreach Grant. Together with a Programming Grant, this multi-million dollar grant was funded by the U.S Department of Education as part of a national effort to improve the literacy and reading readiness of our nation’s youngest children. This innovative grant is designed to locate and connect children from low-income families, and parents and caregivers, with PBS programming and related assets as a means of helping children build their literacy skills.

AIR applied a social marketing approach grounded in extensive target audience research to help CPB and PBS develop and test campaign messages and local marketing strategies and community engagement activities. AIR’s target-audiences research included focus groups, in-home observations, audience analysis, meetings with stations and local partners, in-depth interviews with literacy/Title I community-based organizations in local markets, and a national environmental scan. The research helped AIR, CPB, and PBS identify and test the campaign theme “Anytime is Learning Time” and the umbrella program name, PBS KIDS Raising Readers. Anytime is Learning Time was based on the notion that parents and caregivers can identify and implement simple, fun behaviors that could be accomplished as part of everyday activities to help their young children become ready to read. The formative research also helped AIR in the development of various community engagement activities that gave parents and caregivers opportunities to model the Anytime is Learning Time behavior with their children. Larger scale community engagement programs included the development and process evaluation of Word World’s Literacy Day at the Zoo and the PBS KIDS Raising Readers Library Corner. AIR also provided technical assistance on how to incorporate community engagement activities into promotional outreach efforts to the 20 PBS stations awarded RTL station grants. These stations were charged with engaging parents, teachers, children, after school programs, childcare providers, and caretakers in the Ready To Learn multi-media literacy skill-building resources.

AIR is currently developing a series of success models that highlight various community engagement efforts planned and implemented by select PBS stations during the course of the grant.