Our children feel so happy.

Posted on Dec 11, 2018

For low-income moms and dads who don’t speak English, ensuring their young children are on a path toward school-readiness can be daunting, especially when access to quality childcare is often out of reach. When the opportunity to join Austin PBS's Ready to Learn (RTL) came around for Mariel, she enrolled with her 3-year-old son Brandon, knowing that they both would benefit from this early childhood resource.

“The importance in involving myself in Brandon’s education is because I’ve heard that at this age kids start discovering things for themselves. They are storing everything, like a little sponge, in their brains.”

Austin PBS promotes Play to Learn (ages 2-4) and Ready to Learn (ages 2-8) around the Austin at churches, community centers and area events in order to reach as many interested folks who might qualify as possible. These workshops are 100% English/Spanish bilingual. Mariel heard about RTL while attending El Mundo’s annual back to school bash and recognized that this could be a perfect next-step for Brandon.

Each session starts with a casual breakfast. Caregivers and kids get time to ease into the morning, talking with other group members and forging new connections, ultimately expanding their support networks.

“In Austin PBS’s program you make new friendships with the children’s mothers. You could even invite families that you met to your house so that our children can keep interacting with their children.”

After eating, it’s experiment time! Each week has a specific exploratory focus, including observing the different bounce and roll quality of balls and testing the strength of handmade bridges using toy cars. The activities are all done with everyday materials, making them easy to replicate so that caregivers and kids can go home and “play school” together. For Mariel and Brandon, the one-on-one time learning through play has been really valuable.

“When he was very little he had a lot of ear infections. He listens to his peers or friends around his age [at Ready to Learn], so more than anything it has helped him a lot with his speech. As a mom I have seen that he has made a lot of progress.”

In addition to parent-child projects, Mariel and the other caregivers have their own breakout sessions with RTL teachers where they discuss impactful practices for young learners. Emphasis is put on the importance of scientific inquiry, how to nurture curiosity and how to make connections. Austin PBS's data shows that 99% of moms and dads want to help their kids with their education, but only 54% feel confident in their ability to help teach age-appropriate science skills. The hope is that RTL lessons will continue to be modeled at home. Each week families get a new book and other project handouts to keep.

“Austin PBS is a good neighbor because they teach you to interact with our children. They give us ideas of what we can do at home. And our children feel so happy. The workshop was really great. You could see it in the fact that the parents kept going. As a mother that already finished the program, I would gladly offer it to other parents.”

In fact, following her participation in RTL’s The Cat in The Hat series in September 2018, Mariel recruited more than half the attendees of our November 2018 session! An enthusiastic endorsement from a mother is powerful. Mariel sharing her story is directly responsible for more caregivers and kids learning and growing together, just as she continues to do with Brandon.


Interested in more stories from Austin PBS's Ready to Learn? Check out the journeys of The Stanton Family and Erica Egan from The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Austin Area.

Special thanks to Austin PBS community partner Thinkery. Our fall RTL workshops were held at their facility where they provided staff and food, as well as covering the cost of the PBS KIDS Playtime Pads that each child received upon completing the workshop. Thinkery also generously donated gas cards and annual memberships to the families.

Lea la versión en español aquí.