Public Awareness Campaign

2017 – 2018

A child with a book is a promise to the future”

The single most important activity for building knowledge for their eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.” 1985 Report by the National Commission on Reading

OvR’s mission is to make QUALITY early education available to every poor child so they have a chance to become active contributing members of Romanian society.

Starting 15 February, 2016, families living under the poverty line can sign up for the preschool food coupons, as beneficiaries of Law No. 248/2015, also known as the Fiecare Copil în Grădiniţă law, IF they bring their children to gradinita EVERY DAY. This is the result of years of piloting anti-poverty education-centered interventions advocacy and awareness campaigns on OvidiuRo’s behalf (see history here).

What has been – for more than 5 years – the central mechanism of an NGO-piloted program, has swiftly scaled up nationally to support 62.000 enrolled eligible beneficiaries as of the first year of implementation. For 38.000 children from disadvantaged environments, receiving the food coupons conditional on attendance meant that preschool became their first chance to continuous education and to a better life.

But getting poor children to attend gradinita regularly is only the first of the many necessary steps. Last year, as we helped local authorities and school staff translate law into practice and register as many disadvantaged children in kindergarten, we were struck by the sheer absence of the most basic infrastructure for literacy in poor communities – especially the lack of children’s books and teaching materials in kindergartens.

Building an infrastructure for literacy in poor rural communities has since become our main focus. Why? Because “a child with a book is a promise to the future”

The optimal development of the human brain largely depends on language. The number of words we hear, when and how they are introduced to us fuel our cognitive development, especially in the first 5 years of life. The way parents talk to their children and how much conversation occurs regularly in their households contribute not only to the brain’s development and to a rich vocabulary, but also develop skills that can better prepare children for school: for instance socio-emotional abilities – social skills, the capacity to work in groups and collaborate, empathy and generosity -, the brain’s executive function – like the capacity to react fast or to solve problems -, or mathematical and spatial abilities.

Unfortunately, in the first years of their lives, poor children hear 3 times less words than their peers. To be more precise, we are talking about a 30 million word gap until the age of 4, which further translates into an educational gap that is hard to overcome and which ultimately leads to school drop-out and low graduation rates, and illiteracy.

Fortunately, books and reading aloud with the children hold the answer to the challenge of reducing this daunting word-gap.

The first key practice in language and literacy development is adult-child shared book reading time.” 1998 Committee on the Prevention of Reading Difficulties in Young Children

Reading aloud is one of the most important things parents and teachers can do with children. 2016 Reading Rockets literacy initiative

When done regularly, reading aloud with the children develops the vocabulary, improves focus, discipline and active listening, while at the same time building self-confidence and empathy in children and endowing them with better communication and problem solving skills.

Therefore, for OvidiuRo, the 2017-2018 school-year will be about increasing children’s exposure to new vocabulary & the world of books. We are doing this through conducting literacy-focused preschool learning activities together with motivated and well-trained volunteering teachers.

We aim at training around 1000 kindergarten teachers in child-centered teaching methods, early literacy and ways of involving parents in their children’s education.

Unfortunately, the kindergarten facilities teachers return to each September are sorely lacking in the resources needed for developing a love of reading among children who, in their vast majority, have no books or other printed materials at home.

We need at least 25.000 quality books to make sure the children in Romania’s poorest communities have at least ONE book at home.

These children live in overcrowded homes, sometimes without even having access to water and electricity not to mention the care of an educated adult. To them, having their own book and being read to regularly in grădinița can prove to be the only support they get in striving for literacy and an education.

Our 2017-2018 campaign aims at raising awareness and money to give books and literacy the power they can have to reduce the gap between the poor and the more fortunate. Pay it forward! Send CARTE via SMS to 8844!

„Every-Day in Kindergarten” 2016

“To create and sustain meaningful policies and practices requires more than technical solutions and an engaged profession. It also requires public constituency and mobilization.” O’Day & Smith, P. 345

The 2016 National TV & radio campaign encouraged poor parents to send their children to kindergarten every day and notified them of the FCG national program.

Despite the abject living conditions in poor Roma settlements, most households have a satellite dish and access to multiple channels. OvidiuRo’s previous five campaigns which aired on approximately 50 TV and radio stations since 2009 effectively reached all segments of society – and brought OvidiuRo’s mission to public attention. See here a timeline of our Public Awareness Campaigns promoting early education for all children.

The 2016 TVC features children who benefited from the FCG pilot program. We consider them to be the best promoters of the benefits of quality early education in poor rural areas.

The 2016 public awareness campaign was a collaborative effort involving talented and generous individuals, supporting companies and partner media outlets:

  • Tom Wilson: direction of TV
  • Doru Pușcașu: TVC copywriting
  • Cătălin Măruță: public endorsement on the ‘La Măruță’ show and prime-time ProTV News
  • Chainsaw Europe: editing of TV & radio spots
  • Zenith Media: pro bono air space
  • 30+ TV channels & 7 radio channels
  • Print ads and editorial content courtesy of BIZ, Sapte Seri, GETT’s, Adevarul, etc.
Editorial campaign

Join the debate about early-education and its social benefits on OvidiuRo cofounder Leslie Hawke’s blog on Adevărul blogs platform!

Excerpts from an interview on Radio Romania International

Ana-Maria Palcu: Do you think that €11 in food coupons is a sufficient incentive for parents to regularly send their children to kindergarten?

Leslie Hawke: I don’t think it’s really about the money. It’s about the fact that the government, for the first time, seems to want their children to come to school – starting with kindergarten. The food coupons are largely symbolic.

Ana-Maria Palcu: Given that most parents living below the poverty line are illiterate, isn’t a change of mentalities needed with more emphasis on information & persuasion?

Leslie Hawke: A change of mentality on the part of the authorities is already happening. And that is what is most important – and will drive the change of mentality in parents! Of course, there’s always going to be a contrary parent in the village, but the vast majority of illiterate parents want the same things we want for our children – they want for them to reach their potential in life and to be happy. And no one knows better than an illiterate adult that illiteracy is a major life handicap!

When these parents discover that their child is highly capable of learning to read and write – and that the teachers are kind and encouraging to him – that’s all the information they need! Of course, as the children get older, other issues come into play – cultural and financial issues – but it is EASY to persuade an illiterate parent to send their kid to grădiniță! What the 50 lei does, if they are desperately poor, is remind them to get up in the morning and make the effort to take their kid to school.