Read to your kids. It’s a parenting edict is as old as time, or at least Sesame Street. And all the current brain science shows that kids who get this kind of attention from their caregivers fare better in school and find themselves on paths to success. But when you’re parenting in poverty, the idea of reading one hour to your child each night can feel less like a goal and more like another unrealistic standard you’re failing to meet.
In 2012, the Bezos Family Foundation and IDEO.org dug deeper into that brain science and found that reading is a means, not an end, and sought out to design a solution that would allow low-income parents to support their children’s development in a way that feels realistic in the context of their busy and often stressful lives. Instead of focusing on getting each parent to spend an hour reading aloud from the latest Curious George book—a suggestion that seemed out-of-touch and burdensome to parents we met, our team asked: How can we move beyond reading to catalyze the kind of engagement kids need to build their brains? How can mealtime, bus stops, and running errands join storytime as an intentional moment of learning?
The research and strategy conducted by IDEO.org eventually led to the creation of Vroom, an initiative by Bezos that is turning the read-to-your-kids paradigm on its head by redefining the types of moments in which parents can shine. A suite of tools, exercises, activities, and an app, Vroom inspires parents to turn everyday moments like turning out the lights and brushing teeth into brain-building opportunities.
After piloting in King County Washington, Vroom has expanded to 14 states and reached more than 120,000 families.