Amid School Closures, Barbara Bush Foundation Creates Educational Toolkit to Help Parents and Children Learn Together at Home
As schools across the nation close to protect students and educators from COVID-19, many parents and caregivers are seeking ways to support their children’s learning outside of the classroom. Guided by our founder’s belief that “the parent is the child’s first and best teacher,” the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy is committed to empowering parents to fulfill that role everyday—and especially in these uncertain times.
The good news is that there are some wonderful, free online resources that can help children continue to build critical literacy skills while schools are closed. To help parents choose among the plethora of available options, our team of in-house literacy and education experts has curated a toolkit of trusted, high-quality online resources that can be used anytime, anywhere.
Barbara Bush Foundation Online Literacy Toolkit for Parents
Online Classrooms and Libraries
- Story Mentors: Created by the Barbara Bush Foundation, Story Mentors is a digital classroom focused on early elementary school aged children who are struggling readers. This online early literacy curriculum offers 25 weekly lessons that utilize early reading strategies to improve learning outcomes for struggling readers with the goal of helping students achieve grade level reading. Each lesson is accompanied by guides for mentors and parents that are designed to foster more connections and further learning between parent and child with activities using common household materials. The first-grade resources were developed with support from the AT&T Foundation. Access the digital classroom.
- Scholastic Learn at Home: This extensive free online library includes leveled books; highly engaging reading activities; and tips for parents, educators and students. Visit often, as it is updated daily. Access the resources.
- Unite for Literacy: The Unite online library provides free access to more than 400 original picture books—1/4 of which are written in Spanish. The digital books provide audio narrations in more than 40 languages, spoken by native speakers in warm, expressive voices. The languages of narration include indigenous and endangered languages along with languages most widely spoken in the U.S. These are high interest, all level books for children and adults. Visit the online library.
Read Aloud Books Online
- The Indianapolis Public Library: This is a great way for parents and children to enjoy stories together from anywhere, even without a trip to the book store or the library. View the collections.
- Storyline Online: This free children‘s literacy resource features the world’s best storytellers reading books out loud. Each video includes an activity guide with lessons for K-5 students to do at home. Visit the site.
Tools for Parents
- ReadWriteThink: The National Council of Teachers of English has an entire tab devoted to literacy resources for parents and afterschool professionals. You will find grade-specific literacy games and tools, activities and projects, tips, podcasts, and downloadable resources for no charge! Access the resources.
- Reading Rockets: Reading Rockets is a multimedia project that offers a wealth of research-based reading strategies, lessons, and activities designed to help children from birth to age 8 learn how to read and improve their reading. Their resources are for parents, teachers, and after school professionals. Download free reading tips for parents and early literacy professionals, by age and stage, in English and translated into 12 other languages. at this site.
- Reach Out and Read: Reach Out and Read is a nonprofit organization that helps build a child’s literacy basics by incorporating books into pediatric care and encouraging families to read together. The site also includes a literacy milestone chart for children from birth to 5 (free and downloadable in English). Visit the site.
- U.S. Department of Education: Find tip sheets for families, caregivers, and early learning educators in English and Spanish. Research has found that providing children from birth to 5 with consistent, language-rich experiences – such as talking, reading, and singing – can have important benefits on their brain development and future school success. Access the resources.
- Wide Open School: This curated collection of links directs learners to high quality free activities and lessons in all subject areas, with an excellent selection of resources for math and literacy. Access the resources.
- Raising Readers: Raising Readers gives free books to all children in Maine from birth to 5. Their website has resources for parents and early childhood care providers. Click on “Promoting a Love of Reading” at the top of the page and scroll down to “Parents and Families” for a wealth of resources including reading tips in a variety of languages, free monthly downloads of literacy activities, and videos of best practices for supporting literacy at home. Click on “Early Childhood Professionals” for resources to support early literacy practices, book lists, suggestions for working with parents in low literacy homes, and a toll-free number for direct support. The Resources tab has “Book Activity Kits” that include companion activities for books, which help parents and caregivers enhance reading with children. Use the search feature to find engaging activities for a book you own or find a title your child will like and borrow the book from your library. The activities can be used in group settings or at home.
- PBS: Find more than 125 fun and educational activities and games that support parents of 3-8 year olds to help their child(ren) boost their literacy. Scroll to the bottom of the PBS Parents’ Page to select age-specific literacy tips and activities for children aged 2-8.
There are also math and science categories, plus games and videos.
- Codex: The Lost Words of Atlantis: This gamified app is grounded in learning science and geared towards family learning. Players visit new locations around the world, where they find artifacts and relics that they use to decode the cryptic language of Atlantean into English. This award-winning app is available in both English and Spanish, and has been used in family literacy programs by parents and children together. The app was developed by People ForWords at Southern Methodist University through a competition funded by the Barbara Bush Foundation and the Dollar General Literacy Foundation. Get the app. (enter code 20044)
- National Geographic: Keep brains engaged with National Geographic’s approved science experiments, fun quizzes, animal and music videos, and study guides. Access the resources.
- Smithsonian: Through the Learning Lab, families have access to millions of curated digital resources from across the Smithsonian’s museums, research centers, libraries, archives, and more. Access the library.
Math and Music
- Bedtime Math: This site makes math part of the family routine. Parents can sign up by email, on the website, and on a free app. Whether it’s flamingos, ninjas, or pillow forts, kids can see the math in their favorite topics. No logins. No drilling. No scores. It takes only five minutes a day, and kids clamor for it. View the resources.
- The Math Learning Center: The Math Learning Center (MLC) is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to inspire and enable individuals to discover and develop their mathematical confidence and ability. They offer free innovative and standards-based curriculum, resources, and apps. Access the resources.
- Sing With Our Kids: Singing with a child connects neural pathways and increases the ability to retain information. This site provides free, fun resources for music and reading. Visit the site.
- TeachRock: TeachRock is a free, standards-aligned, arts integration curriculum that uses the history of popular music and culture to help teachers engage students. Innovative lesson plans developed by experienced educators and top experts in the field foster genuine learning in areas including social studies, language arts, geography, science, STEAM, general music and more—for learners of all ages. Start learning.
- TERC Mixing in Math: Find free math activities and games for parents and children using every day, household items. Access the Resources.
Be sure to follow us on social media for more recommendations and tips, and to share how your family is learning together outside of the classroom.