IMG_1943Laura Rodriguez, a Community Literacy Specialist for Tandem, Partners in Early Learning, recently visited Stoneman preschool in Pittsburg. She was there to provide a storytelling demonstration for teachers and an engaging early learning experience for the kids.

As she read the Busy Body Book, Laura encouraged the kids to stomp their feet, feel their bones, and talk about their muscles.

“I can carry pillows with my muscles,” one child shared.

“You can! You are very strong,” Laura replied. The demonstration included many open-ended questions, silly sounds, and opportunities for kids to move, act things out, and relate concepts from the story to their lives – all important elements for interactive early learning experiences that spark joy in children.

Formerly called Raising A Reader, San Francisco, Alameda & Contra Costa Counties, Tandem launched its new name and approach in January to more accurately reflect the agency’s mission to close the opportunity gap for children.

As the new name implies, Tandem is all about working together. The goal is to partner with educators, community organizations and parents and surround children with interactive early learning opportunities that build early language and literacy skills, strengthen social and emotional skills, and foster a lifelong love of learning.

StoryCycles Bags and BooksFirst 5 Contra Costa allocated $156,000 to Tandem this year to provide StoryCycles, its new school-to-home book-sharing program. Each week, children take home a green and blue bag filled with high-quality books to share with their families. They return their bag the following week in exchange for a new bag of books and begin the book-sharing cycle again. StoryCycles is now in 175 early learning classrooms and settings in Contra Costa County, primarily in low-income communities.

To make the most of book-sharing experiences and build children’s early literacy skills, every StoryCycles site receives training like the one Laura provided. Tandem also provides community workshops to reach more families beyond those receiving StoryCycles and has launched a new parent engagement program called Literacy Champions, which provides intensive training for parents to conduct early literacy workshops and distribute free books in their communities. Tandem is currently recruiting for Literacy Champions in Richmond – see flyer for details.

At Tandem, the books are just the beginning. By providing high-quality early learning opportunities and building strong family bonds, Tandem aims to break the cycle of poverty and build brighter futures for children. That’s a mission we are more than happy to support.