Imua launches texting program
Service offers facts, tips and activities for families
In response to growing concerns of parents over distance and remote learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Imua Family Services launched a free text messaging system for families with young children to provide “useful, safe and timely” lessons and techniques.
The agency partnered with Ready4K and Hawaii Community Foundation to provide weekly digital fun facts, tips and activity ideas, which are all specialized to the child’s age, learning and development. The lessons are interactive and can be implemented into a family’s current daily routine.
“This is not only for children enrolled in Imua Family Services programs and services. This opportunity is for all children and families in Maui County,” said Dean Wong, Imua’s executive director, in a news release. “I use it with my 8-year-old son, my friends are doing it with their children, and we all love it. Families in Imua Inclusion Preschool are utilizing it, and we’ve heard nothing but positive feedback and comments.”
To sign up for free, text “IMUA” to 70138. Data and message rates may apply. After texting the number, parents are immediately welcomed and then prompted to input their child’s birthdate and to add other children onto the service if they wish.
Wong said that the goal is to support kids in their early development and learning years, especially during this time when the pandemic has caused many obstacles for families accessing child care, early childhood education programs, schools and preschools.
Imua Family Services launched the messaging system on Aug. 1, and there are currently 162 active enrollments with 773 messages delivered so far. The Hawaii Community Foundation has committed to covering all costs for the next two years for Imua Family Services’ participation in Ready4K, a research-based family engagement and literacy program that delivers a curriculum via text message three times a week. Lessons and tips areavailable in English and Spanish.
Facts are sent on Mondays, tips on Wednesdays and growth activity ideas on Fridays, Wong said. The program is set up to accommodate families with multiple kids of varying ages ranging from newborn to 10 years old. Messaging is tailored to the child’s age and current development.
Rather than families relying on digital devices and online homework, Ready4K encourages physical interactive lessons like pointing out the letters on shampoo bottles during bath time and naming their sounds.
Other examples posted on the Ready4K website include a tip about how the grocery store is a great location for building literacy skills. On the way to the store, experts encourage parents to ask their child to name all the fruits and vegetables they can think of, and while they are at the store, play games like going on a letter hunt or finding out what words rhyme with different food items.
Wong told The Maui News on Monday that Imua staff signed up their children to test the curriculum and were amazed at how simple but instructive the messages were.
“It’s impressive to me that the info I started getting was completely specific to my child and right on target with where he’s at,” he said.
Texts also include simple tips and reminders for parents on how to remain calm during these stressful times, and how their kids may feel or sense their parent’s emotions, he said.
The pandemic may have worse impacts on the youngest children — growing babies, toddlers, preschoolers and kindergartners — when it comes to staying on track with reading, writing and speaking, Wong said. Having easy access to friendly reminders and ideas for interactive educational games is “timely, and quite fascinating and pertinent” given these unprecedented times.
For more information, visit imuafamily.org/ready-4k/.
* Dakota Grossman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.