By: Elizabeth Turner, Executive Director and Founder, SMART Family Literacy
About SMART Family Literacy: SMART Family Literacy is dedicated to education for young children and their families through innovative hands-on activities in science, math, art, reading and technology.
Tell us about the relationship between SMART Family Literacy and the Moody Foundation.
In 2018, SMART Family Literacy was thrilled to be named as one of only four award recipient organizations at the beginning of the Generation Moody Education Initiative! The Generation Moody Education Initiative has been a force for positive change, authentic collaboration rather than duplication, and a focused campaign for sustainable student achievement. The Moody Foundation has helped SMART strengthen community awareness of the transitions that children experience as they go from birth to school age. We connect medical professionals, such as pediatricians who notice the babies and toddlers, to education professionals, typically more aware of preschool and up. With medical, education, and business professionals working in unity towards literacy in the community, we can accomplish anything. Especially with the leadership and support of the Generation Moody Education Initiative, we have been able to provide more consistent high-quality materials and hire additional staff to expand our outreach to about 7,000 people annually.
What are you using the funds for? Why is that significant?
We’re using the funds specifically in early childhood educational programs like our family engagement events. We also provide professional development, where we train early childhood educators and people who work in childcare centers. The Moody Foundation has helped us grow in that aspect of what we do and where we hope we will bring sustainability in. If childcare center educators are better trained, those centers will grow in quality education, better providing for children and parents. At SMART, we use a triangle model – parents, teachers and children at each side with books in the middle. Everything we do has a book involved in it. Literacy creates access to opportunities and is the most powerful tool in the struggle towards self-sufficiency.
What is a family engagement event?
A family engagement event is an informal event where we invite parents to join with their children in reading out loud, singing, participating in hands-on activity, cooking and more. These occur once a month in a restaurant or in school campuses and districts we know that are high priorities. Prioritizing goals in early childhood literacy, bilingual literacy, and health literacy, SMART reads aloud with community groups, builds vegetable gardens, creates readable educational videos, and gives children’s books. Children’s books are an art form of carefully crafted words and visual imagery – photographs and illustrations – important for building early childhood language. In 2018, we gave away 27,000 children’s books. In 2019, we’ve already given away over 14,000 books.
How many children and families do you serve each year?
We directly serve around 5,000 children. This is in addition to the children our teachers and partners reach. We have two partners – UTMB Pediatrics and Galveston ISD. UTMB Pediatrics gives away children’s books instead of lollipops at each visit!
How do you hope SMART Family Literacy and its programs will grow in the next several years?
With so many pieces now moving together in the right direction for education and children in Galveston, Galveston Island has the potential to become known as one of the best places to go for affordable high-quality training for early childhood educators! SMART Family Literacy can continue to be a leading education nonprofit organization capable of filling in the gaps between the larger institutions and reaching out to smaller centers and family homes. By including the smaller individualized settings for child care in the big plan, the Generation Moody Education Initiative maintains a safety net for individuality and people who are inspired to “bloom where they’re planted” and grow in their own neighborhoods. We hope the future allows us to strengthen families and help our educational institutions remember that when families are stronger, everyone is better.