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Reading doesn’t just happen — teaming up for early learning success

Father holding small baby
It’s never too early to start supporting your child’s reading foundation.

Most people understand that becoming a reader is not just critical to a child's academic success, but success in life. What isn't common knowledge is that reading doesn't just happen automatically in school; the foundations for reading must be taught.

“For children to be able to read words, complex text, and ultimately understand what they read, they must develop language and content knowledge alongside foundational early reading skills,” said Dr. Emily Solari, Edmund H. Henderson professor of education and director of Virginia Literacy Partnerships at the University of Virginia.

“Evidence-based literacy practices include explicit instruction in both understanding language and the ability to connect letters and sounds to successfully read words,” Solari said.

Parents and caregivers — a child’s first and most important teachers — play an essential role in building the foundation for reading, and it starts at birth.

To support reading success for all children, VPM and Virginia Literacy Partnerships (VLP) are partnering on the Reading Doesn’t Just Happen messaging campaign.

“Babies are learning from the moment they are born,” said Mary Jo Grieve, VPM director of early childhood care and education. “These early years of life carry the greatest opportunity for impact as this period of development is a critical time for the growth and formation of a child’s brain.”

The campaign — which includes a short video and webpage — provides parents and caregivers with suggestions for simple, everyday actions to help lay the groundwork for reading success. Examples include interacting with your child through daily routines, drawing attention to the sounds around them, singing, reading together and pointing out how letters make sounds.

“One of VPM’s strategic priorities is creating and distributing media content to support early childhood education outcomes,” said Jayme Swain, VPM and Virginia Foundation for Public Media president and CEO. “We were honored to partner with VLP experts at UVA’s School of Education and Human Development to produce a short video to inspire caregivers on easy ways they can impact their children’s ability to read.”

Father and son grocery shopping
Discover together. Become your child’s conversational partner.

The campaign compliments existing VPM Early Childhood Care and Education priorities, including work around The Basics™ — a public health messaging campaign that focuses on five key caregiving behaviors that are important for cognitive and social-emotional development of children, from birth to age five.

“Joining VLP on the Reading Doesn’t Just Happen messaging campaign supports VPM’s vision that all children will have access to opportunities that help them grow to become their best selves and amplifies the family’s role in being their child’s most important teacher,” said Grieve.

VLP partners with educational and community leaders across the commonwealth to improve literacy for all students. Their team is dedicated to the translation of reading science to evidence-based literacy instruction in community and classroom settings. They do this work by engaging with policy makers, state-level education leaders, administrators, teachers and families.

VPM and VLP plan to continue partnering to develop additional messaging that supports reading readiness.

“Our collaboration with VPM is an effort to reach out to families and the broader community to ensure that misconceptions about literacy development, and how these skills should be taught are addressed,” said Solari. “We look forward to continuing this awareness campaign to ensure that all children are successful readers and writers.”