Developing lifelong learners
Developed by the F. R. Bigelow Foundation and The Saint Paul Foundation, Words Work! is an early literacy program proven to cultivate the early reading and writing skills in low-income and other at-risk preschoolers. Words Work! takes a proactive approach to closing the achievement gap. Studies show that children who develop early literacy skills also develop strong self-esteem and ultimately perform well in school.
Words Work! partners with early-childhood programs, like Head Start, focusing on the professional development of their teaching staff. Teachers are taught to saturate their classrooms with language through rich conversation and playful rhyme, plentiful books and writing centers. This ensures that language and literacy play a primary role in the school day. The program also provides parents with books, paper, crayons and activities—these tools ensure the education continues at home.
How Words Work! Makes a Difference
Launched in 1999, the Words Work! program has helped more than 11,600 children. Students entering the Words Work! program are at high risk for academic failure. Perhaps their families live below the poverty level. Perhaps they are children of color. Or perhaps their families are still learning English. Whatever the case, a study of the first group of Words Work! students—followed from the time they entered school and compared to their peers—found that 39 percent of these students test at or below the average level as they enter preschool. At the end of fifth grade, 86 percent of the same group of Words Work! graduates scored at or above average in reading. Another 88 percent scored at or above average in math, outperforming their public school classmates and national peers on standardized tests.
The Role of The Saint Paul Foundation
A program of The Saint Paul Foundation, Words Work! completed its work in 2010 and inspired a new program that focuses on math literacy called Numbers Work! Generous funding for Words Work! came from the F. R. Bigelow Foundation, Mardag Foundation and many individual supporters.
"As teachers grow and develop, they share their teaching successes with other teachers, so they become resources for each other."
Sharon Gullickson, literacy mentor