Projects | December 1, 2023

Partner Spotlight: Florida Alliance of Children’s Councils & Trusts and the Florida Grade-Level Reading Campaign


Changing the landscape of family engagement with BookSmart.

Florida After-school Conference Workshop participants downloading BookSmart to share with their sites.

Statewide, nearly half of Florida 4th graders started the school year without being able to read proficiently. The Florida Grade-Level Reading Campaign (FGLRC), an initiative of the Florida Alliances of Children’s Councils & Trusts (FACCT), is committed to changing this with the help of a new initiative that combines two secret weapons: technology and family engagement.

According to Jenn Faber, FGLRC Director, early interventions in these two areas that promote reading are critical in setting children up for a successful future. “Families are a child’s first teacher,” Faber said, noting caregivers’ powerful role in instilling a love for literacy.

“Babies begin learning even before they’re born. Talking and reading with them builds a foundation for language development, which will become their reading skills.”

Jenn Faber, FGLRC Director

But it’s about more than simply setting time aside to read together, Faber stressed. Technology is now making a big difference in accessibility and convenience for the families FGLRC serves, increasing the likelihood of establishing reading as a daily habit and a family value.

FGLRC recently partnered with Worldreader to give families access to a plethora of books tailored for youth ages 3-12 that are available in multiple languages. This digital library of reading resources is accessible through a free app called BookSmart, connecting families with endless stories accessed anytime, anywhere, and on any device. 

Faber shares that BookSmart was the perfect fit to support their work and that one of the most positive responses from parents is how user-friendly the app is. In only the first couple of months, FGLRC surpassed its goal of 1,500 app downloads. 

“When I demonstrate and show folks how in 20 seconds they can be reading a book, they are amazed,” Faber said, adding that the ability to download a book has been a great feature because access is not hindered even if someone is in a place with poor connectivity.

Worldreader administered grants to FGLRC and 26 other agencies nationwide to promote family reading and build the reading confidence of parents and caregivers to support their child’s learning, to have kids read 25 books in a year. To accomplish this, grantees were also given access to the BookSmart app to share with the families they serve. 

“BookSmart exposes families to reading in a fun and stress-free way,” Faber said, noting that Florida has a large population of families where English is a second language and, in many instances, the child interprets for a parent or adult.

“BookSmart offers a non-threatening way to engage with reading, providing a way to learn simple vocabulary while interacting with their child.” 

Jenn Faber, FGLRC Director

Another advantage of the app from an educator’s perspective, Faber shares, is that most of the books are followed by activities to complement the book that guide the parent to extend the story.

“Many children lack the literacy skills of comprehension or understanding a book even if they can read it,” Faber explained. “These activities offer a great way to promote imagination and engagement while helping them retain what they’ve read.” This is a helpful tool because children are expected to understand, comprehend, and reiterate what they’ve read in the classroom.

Another place Faber has seen positive engagement with BookSmart is in the out-of-school (OST) programs that FGLRC works with. “Our OST programs love BookSmart because they can host a book club – having the kids read the story over the weekend on their devices – and then coming back together to discuss what they’ve read.” She shared that they are excited to have the chance to utilize this digital tool so easily.

Worldreader is a nonprofit organization that works globally with partners to provide digital reading solutions to vulnerable and underserved communities. Worldreader has reached 22 million readers worldwide since 2010.

Start reading on BookSmart