by Mark Cisneros
The Texas Rising Star (TRS) program is a voluntary rating system dedicated to improving the physical, social-emotional, and cognitive development of children. Currently, 31 providers are designated as Texas Rising Star facilities. The Workforce Solutions North Texas Child Care program continually strives to improve the quality of the TRS facilities across 11 area counties.
One successful initiative has been the “Beyond the Page” program. This quality initiative was launched in 2019. The goal is to improve and strengthen literacy and prepare the children to be school-ready.
Just as a child needs an adequate amount of nutritious food for physical growth, so too does a child need language for his or her brain development. Evidence indicates that both the quantity and quality of words spoken to a child in the first 3 years of life predict a child’s language and emerging literacy skills more strongly than socioeconomic status, parent level of education, and race/ethnicity.
The Beyond the Page mission is to provide high quality literature in every classroom and provide the training and tools for the classroom teachers to implement authentic language experiences. In year 1 (2019) the focus was on training teachers to use a single book to plan multiple learning experiences throughout the week. Books with themes such as gardening and multiculturalism were provided to every classroom from infants to school-age. In year 2 (2020) the focus was on read loud strategies to increase vocabulary and questioning skills. Along with award-winning books, classrooms were provided with supplemental items such as puzzles and puppets. In year 3 (2021) the focus transitioned to the social-emotional well-being of the children as we maneuvered through the pandemic. Themes revolving around emotions such as sadness and anger have been the highlight of the book selections.
Beyond the Page reaches 140 classrooms and over 1500 children four times a year. To date, over 1,000 books plus supplemental items have been purchased for the 31 TRS providers.
Mark Cisneros is an experienced educator and current Provider Services Specialist and Texas Rising Star (TRS) Mentor and Assessor for Workforce Solutions North Texas Child Care. He pitched the idea for Beyond the Page to management in 2018, and due to the popularity and success of this program with childcare providers in 2019, WSNT Child Care has been able to continue this program. Each year this program expands its reach to additional providers and children.