Spark BoxesThe COVID-19 pandemic shone a light on the vital role parents play in supporting their child’s learning. It has spawned a renewed appreciation for the work of America’s teachers, including early childhood educators. Studies consistently show these two groups play, in the words of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, “powerful roles as co-producers of good outcomes” for American children. However, opportunities are lacking for parents and educators to “learn from and work with each other.” This reality is especially true for our most marginalized families and under-resourced educators and their institutions, which is why PRIME TIME intentionally embeds the principles of equity in our program design and implementation at all levels. For 30 years, PRIME TIME has been an exception to parent-educator disconnect, engaging parents and educators in our suite of 2-Gen programs, as well as parent- and educator-focused content and workshops.
Based on our successful record of providing abridged “analog” PRIME TIME programming in the wake of the 2016 Baton Rouge floods, PRIME TIME provided Family First Aid kits to families throughout Louisiana during the COVID-19 pandemic to help students retain literacy progress during disruptions and to equip parents and caregivers with the resources they needed to support their young learners. As the crisis continued and we learned more about the needs of our PRIME TIME families, the Family First Aid Kit was pivoted and rebranded to Spark Boxes, building on the lessons we learned during these crisis responses to create a sustainable, replicable model for supporting families when they need it most.
PRIME TIME Spark Boxes are stand-alone kits delivered to families’ homes. Kits include books, literacy support materials, and a grown-up discussion guide that provides guidance for at-home implementation of our methodology. The PRIME TIME Spark Box does not require online or wireless access and considers the needs of our most under-resourced audiences. In December 2020, generous funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) allowed PRIME TIME to distribute more than 800 kits to families across the state, providing 7,636 books to families to build their at-home libraries. This summer with additional funding from NEH along with contributions from the Beaird Family Foundation, Entergy Charitable Foundation, and the Boh Bros Centennial Fund we distributed an additional 400 kits to Louisiana families to help combat the “summer slide,” when students leave formal learning for the summer and may lose some skills they’ve developed. This new method of delivering PRIME TIME programming to families promises to become an important part of our mission to help all Louisianans access and grow from the humanities.