Measuring the effect of books and words

Reading EvaluationPerhaps the single best predictor of a child’s success in school is the number of words he or she knows. The greater a child’s vocab, the better a child does academically and, later on, professionally. This is a key understanding of our reading promotion initiative, which helps parents develop their children’s vocabulary before they get to school, setting them on the path to success. Parents learn how to enjoy books with their children — even parents who cannot read — to converse, ask questions, and tell stories together.

The project is off to a great start this year with the visit of eight graduate students from the communication sciences and disorders program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In Guatemala for a week and a half, the group is running developmental evaluations on 80 children ages 3 and 4.

The testing will help ensure our reading initiative is making a difference for children. Half of the children being evaluated were in the program last year, so we can measure what progress they’ve made. The other half will participate in the program this year, so we’ll have a baseline to compare to as they develop. Strategic planning director Jeff Barnes says this is part of the serious effort we are putting into monitoring and evaluating the program. “We’re not just trying to help people, we want to know that we are,” he says, “and learn how we can do better.

We’re very fortunate to have graduate students from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which has one of the best communication sciences and disorders programs in the country. The group is led by Michelle Quinn, a professor in the department since 1991 and the mother of former long-term volunteer Mariah Quinn-Duffy. Michelle says the trip not only helps Common Hope but has clear benefits for her students, too, who see it as an opportunity to keep up their Spanish skills, improve their skills as evaluators, and make a contribution in the world.

This is the second year in a row that we have worked with the school, and we hope to continue for years to come. Many thanks to Michelle Quinn and her students for helping make this program the best it can be.

To read more about the partnership, there’s a great article on the University of Wisconsin-Madison website.

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