kindergarten & Preschool

Region-wide Early Literacy Innovation Zone unveiled

A press conference to unveil The Early Literacy Innovation Zone of North Central Massachusetts was held Thursday, May 24 at Fitchburg High School.

The Innovation Zone is the first education collaborative to create a region-wide “collective impact” model to provide the resources needed so that all children enter kindergarten ready to learn and read proficiently by third grade.

The United Way and Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts has created the first model in the nation for pooling resources to create a birth through higher education ecosystem that unites multiple communities and institutions around early literacy. This proactive approach is fostering a vibrant culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in a region comprised of small cities and suburban and semi-rural districts. By prioritizing early literacy, the Innovation Zone school districts and partnering organizations will be at the forefront of creating the trajectory needed to fuel the workforce and economic development of the future for this region.

The Innovation Zone consists of the following key partners: The Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts, the United Way of North Central Massachusetts, FLLAC Educational Collaborative (which serves Leominster) Fitchburg State University, the cities and towns of Fitchburg, Leominster, Ayer- Shirley, Athol-Royalston, Clinton, Narragansett, Lunenburg, Ashby, Pepperell, Townsend (North Middlesex), Winchendon and Gardner, and Footsteps2Brilliance.

Research shows that the greatest disparity of knowledge among children is the vocabulary gap — the number of words a child knows from birth through third grade. Children from low-income families hear 30 million fewer words before the age of 4 than their more affluent peers. This problem is compounded by the fact that 61 percent of low-income children don’t have any books in their homes. The Innovation Zone levels the playing field by providing award-winning comprehensive apps in English and Spanish for free to all children aged birth through third grade in the region.

Read more here and here.

Fitchburg Vision Video.mp4

Every kindergarten student in the city has access to free app Footsteps2Brilliance

Did you know that reading on grade level, by Grade 3, is connected to a successful high school graduation?

It’s true, and Fitchburg Public Schools has a mission to provide every student with the tools to become a successful reader and writer by using an app called Footsteps2Brilliance.

Footsteps2Brilliance is a revolutionary Early Learning Mobile Technology Platform that accelerates student achievement by uniting the power of mobile game technology with the latest in cognitive research. Because the program can be accessed with or without an Internet connection on any Apple or Android tablet or phone, as well as on a traditional computer, it provides schools and districts with an unprecedented ability to connect school, home and the community.

“This app and curriculum are game changers,” said FPS Superintendent Andre Ravenelle. “The quality content, easy accessibility and integration into our existing curriculum are tools to help level the playing field for our students.”

This app contains interactive stories and nursery rhymes, read aloud in both English and Spanish. There are even games and activities following each story.

And the best news is that this app is FREE!

“A baby's brain triples in size during the first year of life,” said FPS Early Literacy Coordinator Kathy Brady. “Even though babies do not speak yet, their brains can absorb language. Speaking and reading to your child creates pathways that lead to greater learning throughout life. The Footsteps2Brilliance app is free for all children in the city between Birth and age 8.”

Every kindergarten student in the city has been enrolled and has access to this app.

“Reading and being read to stimulates vocabulary and language development, and both are connected to measures of intelligence,” Brady said. “A daily routine of speaking and reading to your child will increase their intelligence and lead to success in school. In the Fitchburg Public Schools, we believe that every child's parent is his first teacher."

The school district has a goal of having its students read 10 million words by the last week of school. Last year, the Pre-K students read 3 million words in less than three months.

“We think this challenge to our kindergarten students can be met before June, so let’s get reading,” Brady said.

Every student who reads 15 minutes per day on F2B for 5 days per week will be entered in a contest to win an Android Tablet.

If your child is not in kindergarten yet and you would like to receive this app, log on to to register.

Facing a large influx of children entering kindergarten with limited or no English language skills, Fitchburg Public Schools worked with its business community to launch Fitchburg Flourishes, a program using digital books and games that these children – and their family members – use on smartphones and tablets to develop critical early literacy skills.

Since the initiative’s start, Fitchburg has seen the district’s youngest students starting school better prepared, and families more engaged with students’ learning.

Read more here.