The effectiveness of OvidiuRo’s Fiecare Copil în Grădiniţă (FCG) pilot program led the Romanian Parliament to finance its parent incentive component throughout Romania, with €10 million for food coupon incentives allocated yearly from the state budget, starting 2016. Law no. 248/2015 established that parents living in poverty can receive €11 per month in food coupons if their child attends preschool every day.
Today, as the Agency for Early Education, OvidiuRo’s main mission is to mobilize public and private resources to ensure that quality early education is available to Romania’s poorest children, through interventions that expand young children’s vocabulary and improves their language skills. The program is being developed in partnership with the Ministry of National Education.
OvidiuRo focuses now on teacher trainings and providing kindergartens with literacy-building resources and children with books at home. In 2019, over 100,000 picture books reached poor rural and urban kindergartens all over Romania and children’s homes, and 1,500 kindergarten teachers received intensive training so that they can ‘pay it forward’ by conducting literacy-based trainings for their fellow teachers.
In 2020, OvidiuRo will continue to build the infrastructure necessary to widen the ‘early literacy net’ so that virtually all of Romania’s kindergarten teachers have quality teaching tools and preschool have plenty of age-appropriate books.
Why is literacy crucial for children’s development in their first years of life?
Literacy is the most significant predictor of success in school and life. Early linguistic competencies are necessary prerequisites for later reading and writing abilities and thus for a successful school career. At age 2 there is already a huge vocabulary gap between children in different segments of society. Poor children have zero books at home and in most kindergarten classes are only coloring books.
A recent study* published in the Journal of Global Health found that the likelihood of a child being on track in literacy and numeracy almost doubled if at least one book was available at home compared to when there was none. The researchers analyzed data, covering 100,000 children 3-5 years of age, from 35 countries in seven regions and (after adjusting for confounding variables like maternal education and family income) established the association between the availability of children’s books to preschool-age children and their readiness for school at age 6.
* Association between availability of children’s books and the literacy-numeracy skills of children aged 36 to 59 months: analysis of the UNICEF Multiple-Indicator Cluster Surveys covering 35 countries, by Alexander Manu, e. al., published in Journal of Global Health, Edinburgh University Global Health Society (accessed on October 28, 2019, at http://www.jogh.org/documents/issue201901/jogh-09-010403.htm)
The latest PISA (OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment) test results showed Romania’s scores continuing to decline – with 44% of 15-year-olds who took the test not reaching the ‘functional literacy’ level. This alarming result reaffirms the need for quality early education, through well-trained teachers and pedagogically-sound picture books on hand – as the foundation for giving disadvantaged children a chance to succeed in school and become active contributing members of Romanian society.