Case Study: Duval County Public Schools Enhances Early Literacy

Case Study: Duval County Public Schools Enhances Early Literacy

Florida District and Just Right Reader Partner to Enhance Early Literacy and Family Engagement for Their Youngest Learners


Sonya quote

Duval County Public Schools is home to 129,000+ diverse students in the heart of Jacksonville, FL. The district strives to accelerate student achievement through a “whole child” educational philosophy and a commitment to effective instruction to prepare students for 21st-century careers and college. District leaders understand that this endeavor begins at birth.

Duval County received a literacy grant with requirements to support literacy from birth onward. To support the youngest readers in the community, district leaders partnered with Just Right Reader to develop board books, backed by research and aligned to Early Learning Standards, to ignite curiosity among young learners at every step toward kindergarten readiness. 

Research indicates that the plasticity of early brain development makes the early years, especially the first three, a period rich with opportunities for raising lifetime trajectories of achievement and well-being (McKinsey & Company, 2009; Phillips et al., 1998; Tamis LeMonda et al., 2017).

Board books are ideal for introducing literacy to infants and toddlers as they progress on their journey towards kindergarten. These sturdy books are crafted to withstand the curious hands of young children, combining simple texts and vivid illustrations to engage their senses, foster early language skills, strengthen  bonding, and instill a lifelong love of reading.


Initial Stages

Duval district leaders including Sonya McSwain, Director of John Love Early Learning Center, met with Just Right Reader to begin the development of a research-driven product designed to engage parents and caregivers and foster early literacy development in children from infancy to three years.

“This is a personal connection for me. I’m the grandmother of a one-year-old, and she loves to be read to. Her eyes light up with real pictures, real people, short text, and engaging things that make her laugh. Those are the things I wanted other families to be able to experience with their kids. I also wanted something that provided tips to parents or grandparents on ways they can engage with their children.” - Sonya McSwain


After thoroughly planning essential product components, including content aligned with Early Learning Standards and an element for families, Just Right Reader developed the prototype of a board book.These books are durable enough to withstand the grasp of curious toddlers and engaging enough to nurture a love for reading at a critical developmental stage.

Just Right Reader collaborated with Dr. John Hutton, Associate Professor of General and Community Pediatrics at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, to ensure the structure and content of the board books aligned with the latest brain development research. 

Dr. Hutton discusses the latest research early brain development and practical strategies for families to cultivate a supportive literacy environment at home on the Science of Reading Leadership podcast.

Just Right Reader used Early Learning Standards to create board books that are developmentally tailored for three distinct age groups, as shown below. 

Head Start Centers and At-Home Implementation

The initial launch took place at a Head Start Center on Jacksonville's westside, which serves two elementary schools targeted by the district to close literacy gaps and boost achievement.

To support at-home implementation, Learning Together Guides andQR codes linking to short videos equip caregivers with an extra layer of support with easy tips and fun ideas for their child’s journey to literacy.

In addition to board books, parents and caregivers were given tailored Lakeshore learning kits, including sensory balls, building blocks, and other resources to use at home.

The Head Start Center also offered parenting workshops to ensure the effective use of the books, kits, and guides at home.

“The whole idea is to reinforce the importance of constant communication and engagement with their babies and the love of literacy. Together, this helps them successfully transition to us later on when they are entering pre-kindergarten and kindergarten.” - Sonya McSwain 

In an effort to transform early literacy development in the community,Duval aims to broaden its reach by expanding into more Head Start Centers and distributing board books monthly to an increasing number of families.

Built to Bond Books for Infants: Talk, Read, Sing, Play, Love!

The journey to literacy begins at birth. OurBoard Books support developmental skills critical in the first three years of life — from language and literacy to physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development.

Our Board Books feature

  • Research-backed books aligned to your Early Learning Standards
  •  Vibrant illustrations and engaging stories based on developmental milestones
  • Bite-sized tips, baby sign language, and videos for caregivers with every title
  • Learning Together Guides equip caregivers with easy tips and fun ideas for their child’s journey to literacy.

Build literacy and readiness skills in every child in your community in the critical first three years of life with Just Right Reader Board Books.


Visit this link or scan the QR Code to read
My Feelings. 


     Dr. Hutton, John,Associate Professor of General and Community Pediatrics at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center
Symposium on Reading and the Brain in Early Childhood, November 16, 2023.

     The SCIENCE behind The Basics PRINCIPLES. The Basics. (n.d.).

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