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Kindergarten readiness nonprofit launches Alabama program to address reading deficiency

A free, at-home kindergarten readiness program has been launched in Alabama to tackle the issue of reading deficiency.

Waterford.org, a Utah-based nonprofit created by its state legislature in 2009, for over a decade has brought cost-free early education opportunities to young learners. Upon experiencing success in Utah, the organization is now bringing its no-cost offerings to children in the state of Alabama.

Waterford.org is one of eight nonprofits worldwide that had been named a 2019 TED Audacious Project recipient. As part of the recognition, Waterford was tasked with serving more four-year-olds who are in need.

The organization provides families with free resources to be utilized for at-home study. The program offers parent-child interactions in a personalized, online instruction format 15 minutes a day, five days a week. A program family coach serves to support parents in the process, who are given trips for offline engagement experiences.

According to Waterford.org, on average, 92% of children who participate in the program are prepared for kindergarten, compared to a 65% average nationwide and 48% for low-income children.

Kim Fischer, vice president of communication at Waterford.org, stated that achievement gaps start “very early on and many times the cause is a lack of access.” She went on to note that the nonprofit is “focused on setting the foundation of literacy for all children.”

Leah Rhodes, an Alabama parent whose child utilizes Waterford.org programs, said root causes of achievement gaps can be due to “anything from access to technology, access to internet [or] access to transportation.”

Rhodes went on to state, “With this program, there are definitely endless possibilities for not only the children but the parents.”

The program places an emphasis on targeting low-income families who have children in school districts where reading gaps are prevalent. The nonprofit provides free computers and internet access to any family who has the need.

As the state of Alabama has been recognized by the National Institute for Early Education Research for achieving the highest Pre-K program rating for 15 consecutive years, Waterford.org bringing its services to the state stands to strengthen offerings provided to Alabama children.

Registration in Alabama has opened for families with four-year-olds, however, spots are limited and the program contains applicable restrictions. Parents whose children are set to enter kindergarten in 2022 may register by calling 1-888-982-9898 or visiting WaterfordUpstart.org.

Dylan Smith is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSmithAL