SALISBURY — The folks at Appleseed are optimistic as the non-profit wraps up its second major distribution. In June of 2016, the organization handed out approximately 60 “e-readers” — repurposed Kindle Fire tablets loaded with books and literacy apps — to two Head Start locations in Salisbury. Appleseed hopes to bridge the vocabulary and literacy gap that often exists between at risk children and their more affluent peers.
After receiving positive feedback from its initial rollout, Appleseed purchased 600 more readers, which it has been handing out to Rowan County’s eight Head Start preschools this week. So far parents have been extremely receptive, said Greg Alcorn, founder and executive director of Appleseed. All the readers are provided for free to qualifying families with children aged 0 to 4, as long as the family signs a pledge to provide research and feedback for the next three years. Appleseed collects usage data directly from the devices, and families are required to answer research questions.
If they fail to do so, Appleseed will ask for the reader back. “And that’s actually been accepted by every parent and or guardian,” Alcorn said. The devices have been stripped of their original software and uploaded with Appleseed controls, making them functionally useless for anything other than reading. The devices’ camera and Wi-Fi have been disabled. “It’s celebrated,” Alcorn said, describing families’ reactions to that information, “They like that.” Over the past week, Appleseed workers have said they’ve heard numerous parents commenting that “now they’ll get their phone back” and that they won’t have to worry about their children hopping onto Youtube or stumbling onto sites they shouldn’t see. And so far, the reaction has been nothing but positive, Alcorn said. “We’ve had zero pushback, zero denial. …We haven’t had anyone who’s had it who’s wanted to give it back,” he said.
Upgraded readers were also provided to Head Start teachers, and 35 were sent to Salisbury Pediatrics in order to lay the groundwork for Appleseed’s third rollout. Alcorn and his crew plan to spend the next calendar year collecting data, and hope that by December, a good chunk of Rowan County children will be familiar with an Appleseed reader through Salisbury Pediatrics. “So we hope over the next year they’ll be able to loop through,” he said. If all goes well, Alcorn hopes to provide a reader to every qualifying child in Rowan County beginning in 2018. “We remain optimistic that this will have a great impact,” he said.
Appleseed will wrap up its distribution Friday, and Alcorn said the organization will be contacting each family once a week for the first month to ensure everything goes smoothly.