Talking is Teaching: an early literacy initiative

October 17, 2022

Neighborhood North is part of the Pittsburgh Peer Learning Collaborative, a cohort of nine organizations in Pittsburgh focused on boosting the early learning and brain development of children from birth through age five. This cohort was tasked with learning about the Clinton Foundation's Too Small to Fail, Talking is Teaching program and plan how to implement this initiative in our local contexts.

“Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing” is a public awareness and action campaign that aims to motivate parents and caregivers to talk, read, and sing more with their young children from birth. The campaign partners with trusted messengers to share information with parents about the critical role they play in their child’s development, as well as concrete tools to help them engage in language-rich activities with their children.”  Neighborhood North invited our local McDonald’s restaurant to partner with us on this program, as many of our young families spend time there.  Both the store leadership and Tri County Management were enthusiastic to team up with us on this initiative. This program will include signage in the restaurant, table activities, and information and books distributed to families. 

Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing” aims to give parents and caregivers the tools to talk, read and sing more with their young children from birth, increasing meaningful interactions that are critical to healthy brain development. According to a study conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics, almost 60 percent of American children start kindergarten unprepared, lagging behind their peers in critical language, math, and social-emotional skills. Research shows that during the first years of life a child’s brain forms one million new neural connections every second and absorbs information like a sponge. This is why simple, everyday interactions with young children—like describing objects seen during a walk or bus ride, singing songs, or telling stories—can better prepare them for school, and lay a strong foundation for their social-emotional development, health, and lifelong learning.

We asked our Geneva College intern, Ainsley Arrington, what excites her about helping with this project.  Here is what she shared: “In partnering with the local McDonald’s restaurant, we hope to incorporate posters, books, and other media into the dining room and the diaper changing stations to create a sustainable way to learn about literacy! ...Not all children have access to programs that help to foster this early childhood intervention, so they may fall behind other children within their grade or age group. This is where Neighborhood North comes in! Our goal is to give children the opportunity to learn with their families in a common place. Another study found that environmental writing, like the text on menus, street signs, and posters helped children to build their reading skills outside of school settings. This partnership with McDonald’s will allow children to receive literacy education with their families in a new, comfortable context.”

As part of our “Talking is Teaching” campaign, Neighborhood North and McDonald's are committed to training McDonald employees to be trusted messengers in the community, and share information with parents and caregivers about the critical role they play in their child’s early brain development. These trusted messengers will distribute language-rich Talking is Teaching materials—including books that encourage parents to talk, read, and sing with their children.

For more information about the Talking is Teaching campaign, visit http://www.talkingisteaching.org/.

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