New Educational Home Visit Program to Help Parents Better Prepare Local Children for Kindergarten

ECA Business Council sponsors free educational tote bags as part of “Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing” campaign

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Local families in Onondaga County will soon have access to more resources to help their children with language acquisition, reading and school readiness through free in-home educational visits. Trained home visitors will visit approximately 1,000 parents and children in Onondaga County starting this week and throughout the next six months to increase awareness among parents of how learning begins at birth and provide them with tools to promote early brain and language development. The new Talking is Teaching Home Visiting Strategy is a part of the Early Childhood Alliance (ECA) of Onondaga’s larger “Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing” campaign.

The “Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing” campaign is a national campaign by Too Small to Fail that encourages parents to engage with their children in language-rich activities like talking, reading and singing every day. The local campaign first launched in Onondaga County in May 2017 and made Onondaga County the 12th community in the country to partner with Too Small to Fail on the national initiative.

Tote bags ready for distribution

“The overarching goal of the home visits is to spread the simple message that ‘talking is teaching’ and empower parents with the knowledge that learning begins at birth,” said Bethany Creaser, chair of the ECA’s Talking is Teaching Home Visiting Strategy. “This strategy is perfectly aligned with the work that home visitors do every day to inspire parents to be the best parents they can be for their children.”

During the home visit dedicated to the Talking is Teaching Strategy, families will receive a tote bag that includes a learning toy, book and “Talking is Teaching” information and materials that parents can use to engage their children in conversation and reading. The home visitors will demonstrate the types of interactions that parents can have with their children and reinforce why those interactions are important in a child’s overall development.

Entire package of materials

To develop its new strategy and train home visitors, the ECA collaborated with existing home-visiting programs in Onondaga County, including the Onondaga County Health Department’s “Healthy Families” program, Catholic Charities of Onondaga County, MANOS, PEACE Inc.’s Early Head Start program and the Salvation Army’s Early Head Start program. Thirty home visitors are trained in the “Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing” campaign messaging and materials, and additional home visitor trainings are planned for January.

All funding to support the Home Visiting Strategy has been provided by the ECA Business Council, which agreed to sponsor the strategy at its first meeting in April 2017. Members of the council that have financially invested include: Barton & Loguidice, Bousquet Holstein PLLC, CenterState CEO, Dannible & McKee LLP, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, M&T Bank, SRC Inc. and Wladis Law Firm. Advance Media NY and Pinckney Hugo Group have also invested in the promotional elements of the Talking is Teaching campaign.

“Investing in a strong early childhood system makes sense to the business community and making strategic investments can result in strong returns for our future workforce,” said Mark Wladis, chair of the ECA Business Council. “When children are underprepared for school, they are less likely to graduate from high school, and oftentimes more likely to struggle to find employment.”

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics:

Every year, more than one in three American children start kindergarten without the language skills they need to learn to read.

Approximately 80 percent of those living below the poverty threshold and two-thirds of all children in the United States fail to develop reading proficiency by the end of the third grade.

Reading with children in their infancy and preschool years is associated with higher language skills at school entry and with childhood literacy acquisition.

Children from low-income families hear fewer words in early childhood and know fewer words by 3 years of age than children from more advantaged families.

“Excellus BlueCross BlueShield’s mission as a nonprofit health plan is to seek ways to continually improve the health and health care of the residents in the communities it serves,” said Jim Reed, regional president of Excellus BlueCross BlueShield and member of the ECA Business Council. “To fulfill that mission, we are pleased to invest in the Early Childhood Alliance’s “Talking is Teaching” program, which helps parents provide a nurturing environment that can give children in Onondaga County a positive start in life.”

To evaluate the future impact of the home visiting strategy, the ECA and its Business Council have partnered with the Maxwell X Lab, a component of the Center for Policy Research at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. Research and evaluations will be conducted to determine if the in-home visits affect a parent’s knowledge of when their child’s brain is developing and how, and if the visits influence a change in behavior. Results are expected by fall 2018.

To learn more about the initiative, all parents in Onondaga County are encouraged to visit, like and share the “Talk, Read, Sing Onondaga” Facebook page. For more information on the national campaign, including parent-friendly resources, tips and activities, parents can visit talkingisteaching.org.

About the Early Childhood Alliance

The Early Childhood Alliance (ECA) was launched in Onondaga County in 2015 and is comprised of stakeholders from all levels of the early childhood system, including health, early learning and family supports. The ECA oversees a coordinated strategy to create an integrated local system of early childhood care and family support services. The ECA has committees to help shape the strategic planning process and implementation of the strategic plan. Learn more about the ECA at: www.ecaonondaga.org. The ECA is an initiative of the United Way, funded by the Allyn Family Foundation and the Health Foundation for Western and Central New York, and is housed at the CNY Community Foundation.

About the ECA Business Council

The Early Childhood Alliance (ECA) Business Council was launched in April 2017. The Early Childhood Alliance Business Council’s role is to educate the community, business leaders, policy makers and elected officials on why it makes smart economic sense to strengthen our early childhood system. The Council leverages the collective strength of the hundreds of businesses in our community that are supporters of early childhood and mobilizes their collective voice in support of an early childhood system that is coordinated and effective. Specifically, the Business Council is involved with promoting the importance of early childhood among business leaders throughout the community, leveraging business support for targeted early childhood efforts that advance the work of the Early Childhood Alliance, and providing business perspective to the work of the Early Childhood Alliance, including strategic planning, policy analysis, data measurement and evaluation.

About Too Small to Fail

Too Small to Fail, a joint initiative of the Clinton Foundation and The Opportunity Institute, is leading a public awareness and action campaign to promote the importance of early brain and language development and to empower parents with tools to talk, read and sing with their young children from birth. Today, almost 60 percent of children in the United States start kindergarten unprepared, lagging behind their peers in critical language, math and social-emotional skills. Through partnerships with pediatricians, hospitals, faith-based leaders, community based organizations, businesses, entertainment industry leaders and others, Too Small to Fail is meeting parents where they are to help them prepare their children for success in school and beyond. Whether at the pediatrician’s office or the playground, Too Small to Fail aims to make small moments big by creating opportunities for meaningful interactions anytime, anywhere. Learn more at talkingisteaching.org.