It’s not every day that we get a chance to celebrate victories, is it? But lately the good news about local efforts to close the word gap has been buoying all of us at Too Small to Fail. People across the country are in agreement that talking, reading, and singing to children from birth strengthens bonds with them and builds vocabularies so they can better prepare for school.
In this newsletter, we’d like to share some of that good news with you.
In case you missed it, last week Too Small to Fail launched its first local campaign in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Working with community partners like the George Kaiser Family Foundation, CAP Tulsa, and Tulsa Educare, we announced a campaign that will help parents and caregivers increase the number of words they speak directly to their babies and toddlers every day. We’re really excited about this initiative, and are hopeful that by working with local pediatricians, faith-based leaders, business owners and others to share the campaign’s messages, we can help close the word gap in Tulsa.
In Chicago, PNC Foundation (part of the PNC Bank) just announced a $19 million, multi-year initiative to help Chicago parents and caregivers build their children’s vocabularies. The initiative will fund early learning and vocabulary programs—including the Thirty Million Words Initiative started by Too Small to Fail advisory council member Dr. Dana Suskind—and will track the progress of the participating families for several years.
The city of Providence, Rhode Island, announced just two weeks ago that it was launching an intensive program that combines home visitation with other community-wide efforts to empower parents to close the word gap by speaking and reading more to their children. Providence Mayor Angel Taveras has been a committed advocate on this issue, and expects the program to eventually help more than 2,000 families in the area.
And First Five California recently launched its new effort to help parents and caregivers understand the importance of using everyday moments to build their children’s vocabularies in a statewide campaign called “Talk. Read. Sing.”. Commercials and radio spots are filling the air with messages about baby and toddler development, and ways to get parents and little kids more engaged in talk and play.
Finally, our partner Univision Communications announced this week a national month-long effort named “Accion por los Niños” aimed at Hispanic families to raise awareness and increase the time they spend talking, reading and singing to their very young children. The media company will host a series of events across the country including reading gardens with Univision celebrities, special programming in affiliate stations and press events with elected leaders.
We hope you find this good news encouraging, and that you can find a way to support efforts to close the word gap—either in your family or your community. Either way, we look forward to hearing about it.
In The News:
- “Efforts to Close the Achievement Gap in Kids Start at Home”, NPR, March 17, 2014.
- “PNC Launches $19 Million Vocabulary Initiative in Chicago”, Wall Street Journal, April 1, 2014.
- “Trying to Close a Knowledge Gap, Word by Word”, New York Times, March 25, 2014.
Check out one of the First Five California ads that aims to empower parents and caregivers to close the word gap. >>
Tulsa, OKPress Release
Multi-Media Campaign Will Empower Parents and Family Members of Young Children to Realize Their Potential as Their Children’s First Teachers by Offering Tools and Tips to Boost Vocabulary and Early Learning
Tulsa, OK—Local community leaders in Tulsa, Oklahoma will come together today to join forces with Too Small to Fail, a joint initiative of Next Generation and the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, to announce the launch of a new local campaign that will help parents and caregivers of children ages birth to five prepare their children for success in school and beyond.
Tulsa has notably emerged as a national leader in its commitment to early childhood education. The campaign, titled “Talking is Teaching”, has been developed in partnership with local community organizations that have extensive experience in improving early learning and health among Tulsa families, including the George Kaiser Family Foundation, CAP Tulsa, and Tulsa Educare. The campaign will use a community-wide approach—engaging pediatricians, business owners, faith-based leaders, librarians and others—to empower parents and caregivers to boost young children’s brain development and build their vocabularies by increasing the number of words they hear spoken to them every day.
Upon learning about the effort, U.S. Senator from Oklahoma and family physician Tom Coburn expressed support for the campaign: “When it comes to raising children no one knows better—or cares more—than parents. Every parent wants to ensure the healthy development of their infants and toddlers. I appreciate what the George Kaiser Family Foundation and others are doing to help convey to parents the best advice about what they can do to encourage the physical, cognitive and personal development of their children.”
When parents and caregivers talk, read and sing to their young children every day, they help develop important vocabulary as well as cognitive, social and emotional skills necessary for later learning. Put simply, the more words children hear spoken to them directly every day, the better they learn.
According to recent field research conducted, a majority of low-income parents, grandparents and other caregivers in Tulsa recognize that they personally have an impact on their child’s brain development. Yet, many of those surveyed admit that they could be doing more on a daily basis to help their children increase their vocabulary:
- Only 55 percent of parents and 47 percent of grandparents report reading to their children every day.
- Fewer than half report telling their children a story, singing a song or playing a non-electronic game every day.
“Talking is Teaching” will share with parents and caregivers how simple actions—like describing objects seen during a walk or bus ride, singing songs, or telling stories for just five minutes, three times a day—can significantly improve a baby’s ability to learn new words and concepts.
“Through my involvement with Educare,” said Rondalyn Abode, Tulsa Educare parent and employee, “I was taught that I can be the very best teacher for my children. It’s good to have resources and support to help me do this. The ‘Talking is Teaching’ campaign will help bring resources and support to a broader audience, and it’s exciting that this is starting in Tulsa.”
In addition to creative messaging from the campaign that will appear throughout the community, local partners and pediatricians will disseminate messages directly to parents and caregivers using family toolkits developed with Sesame Workshop; and to pediatricians using clinical toolkits on early literacy developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The campaign will also test new technology developed by the Bezos Family Foundation to help remind parents to build these activities into their daily lives.
“Talking is Teaching” will be developed as a model that can be learned from and shared in other communities across the country.
A PDF of tips for parents is available for download at www.talkingisteaching.org. Additional samples of the message campaign will be made available to members of the press upon request.