Arizona PBS is currently testing out a new way of connecting parents with helpful information about early childhood development.
The project is called Bright by Text — and as the name suggests, it delivers bite-sized tips and recommendations via text message. Each message is targeted to the child’s age and contains a concept, resource or activity.
“With Bright by Text, we are reaching parents and caregivers (including hard-to-reach rural and millennial parents) via convenient, user-friendly and highly cost-effective programming,” said Lynn Debilzen, senior manager of national scaling for the project.
Bright by Text is a program from Bright by Three, a Colorado-based nonprofit that developed core materials for improving early childhood development during the foundational first three years of a child’s life. These materials were originally designed for in-home visits. Now the program’s developers hope to widen the impact of their curriculum.
Using the Bright by Three curriculum as a foundation, Bright by Text also includes content from a variety of other sources including PBS, Sesame Street in Communities, Vroom and Delta Dental. Bright by Text also expands the age range, providing resources for children up to age 5, and there are even a handful of prenatal messages that focus on the third trimester of pregnancy.
Bright by Text is also able to deliver localized messages — such as information about nearby events or services — based on ZIP code. This aspect of the program has been especially successful so far, with click-through rates as high as 80 percent (compared to an industry standard of 6 percent). In Arizona, organizational partners include Read On Arizona, First Things First, Southwest Human Development, the Association for Supportive Child Care and some local library systems.
Arizona PBS is currently one of six PBS stations taking part in a pilot program for Bright by Text, chosen in part because of our strong existing partnerships with statewide organizations.
“Bright by Text’s partnership with local PBS stations creates a network of platforms and resources that has the potential to establish an early childhood communications system which uses television, online, text, direct service resources and systems to serve households with young children,” said Laurie Zeller, who is managing the New Generation Initiative for Rocky Mountain PBS. The New Generation Initiative manages the pilot partnership between Bright by Text and PBS stations.
In judging the success of the pilot programs, the Bright by Text team and their PBS partners will look at questions like whether and how the program impacts parenting practices and child development (for example, are Bright by Text children better prepared for kindergarten?). The evaluation will also examine the role that stations like Arizona PBS play in creating the community partnerships that contribute to Bright by Text and its value as a resource for parents and caregivers.
“In addition to increasing parent/caregiver engagement with children and improving child outcomes,” Debilzen said, “we hope Bright by Text can be a tool used within communities to directly connect families to underutilized resources in the community.”
Parents and caregivers across Arizona can sign up now for the free service at azpbs.org/kidstext or by texting ARIZONAPBS to 274448. The service is offered in both English and Spanish. (Standard message rates may apply.)
Arizona PBS’ participation is funded by a generous grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Additional funding supporting Bright by Text comes from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.