01/13/2014 04:48 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Building a Foundation for Literacy

When Sesame Workshop was founded in the late 1960s, we reimagined the way widespread technology could be used to advance educational goals like the expansion of literacy. Over 40 years later, we remain committed to both literacy and the innovative use of technology. That is why Sesame Workshop partnered with the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation (IICF) to create Every Day is Reading and Writing Day, a new bilingual (English/Spanish) digital destination that helps families make the most out of the opportunities they have to talk, read and write with their young children.

The foundation for literacy is laid years before children ever enter school, even before they can actually read and write. It begins when they scribble purposefully on a piece of paper or overhear their parents talking. These early experiences with conversations, stories, books and print are the clay from which literacy is eventually shaped.

But the richness and frequency of these experiences varies wildly between children from different economic backgrounds. Studies have shown that less than half of children between birth and five years (47.8 percent) are read to every day by their parents or other family members. According to studies conducted by the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, 44 out of 50 children who are having trouble learning to read in kindergarten will still be having trouble in third grade.

The need for a renewed focus on the importance of literacy is real. That's why the IICF and Sesame Workshop felt there was a need for a resource like Every Day is Reading and Writing Day.

This digitally-driven literacy initiative is guided by the belief that everyday moments can be made into educational activities. Any opportunity to talk, write or even scribble is an opportunity to expand literacy. Children's interests may vary wildly, but those interests are also an opening: They can be used to increase a child's vocabulary or teach a child to describe something purposefully. In other words, Every Day is Reading and Writing Day is a practical tool, meant to reflect the reality that children have diverse interests and aptitudes.

The site includes video segments and guides that help parents leverage their day-to-day interactions with their children into literacy-expanding activities. But the resource is for more than just families. It also includes hands-on materials for volunteers who are looking to facilitate rich, literacy-based experiences for young children. And given that teachable moments occur far more often than a family finds themselves in front of a computer, the site's literacy content is easily accessible through smartphones and tablets.

It is nothing short of essential that, when young, every child have rich experiences that drive them towards literacy. In order to ensure that takes place, Sesame Workshop, the IICF and other organizations have to work tirelessly to ensure that children from every economic background have an opportunity to achieve their full potential. With that unwavering commitment to the importance of early education in mind, we created Every Day is Reading and Writing Day.

To see the site and all the educational tools it has to offer, click here. To learn more about Sesame Workshop and all the ways we bring learning and laughter to children across the globe, click here. To learn more about all the critical work the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation does to improve American communities, click here.