Two Years Later, “Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing” Continues to Make a Difference in Onondaga County

Local campaign helps children with school readiness by promoting brain and language development starting at birth

Syracuse, N.Y.Through the “Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing” campaign – a national public awareness and action campaign of the Clinton Foundation’s Too Small to Fail initiative –  thousands of local parents and caregivers have been provided with resources and tools to promote early brain and language development. In celebration of the campaign’s two-year anniversary in Onondaga County, four new interactive “Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing” signs have been installed at the Wegmans Playground at Onondaga Lake Park. The playground signs offer parents and caregivers positive, informative messages and suggestions on how to engage in language-rich interactions with their children. The signs were dedicated on Friday, June 14, at 10:30 a.m.

In addition, a public story time featuring children’s author Doreen Cronin, best known for her “Click Clack” book series, will be hosted on Friday, June 14, at 1 p.m. by the Liverpool Public Library. Community members are invited to attend the free event, which will be held at Studio B Dance at 318 1st St. in Liverpool. During the story time, Cronin will read some of her popular books and emphasize the importance of talking, reading and singing with children every day.

The Early Childhood Alliance Onondaga (ECA) first launched the local campaign in May 2017 and made Syracuse the 12th community in the country to partner with Too Small to Fail on the national initiative. The national campaign has continued to spread throughout the country, and there are now 24 Talking is Teaching communities.

“Too Small to Fail knows that simple, everyday interactions with young children – like talking, reading, and singing – can have a big impact and lay a strong foundation for their social-emotional development, health and lifelong learning,” said Kristen Rocha Aldrich, associate program director, Too Small to Fail. “We are thankful for Onondaga County’s commitment to promoting early learning to its youngest residents and their families through the ‘Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing’ campaign.”

In the two years since its launch in Onondaga County, the local campaign has generated public awareness through a community-wide, multimedia effort including the placement of billboards, bus ads, posters and other creative materials that encourage families to talk, read and sing while they engage in everyday activities. An educational home visiting strategy was introduced in October 2017. Through the program, 70 trained home visitors together have visited more than 1,000 parents and caregivers in Onondaga County. During the home visits, families and caregivers receive a tote bag that includes resources, information and materials that parents can use to engage their children in conversation and reading to help improve language acquisition and school readiness. In addition, in partnership with pediatric practices, over 4,000 Talking is Teaching bibs and t-shirts have been distributed to families of infants and toddlers.

A randomized control trial evaluation of the home visiting strategy was conducted by the Maxwell X Lab at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. The evaluation found that families in households that received a tote bag as a result of a home visit dedicated to the Talking is Teaching strategy increased weekly parent-child reading by 41%. Parents and caregivers also overwhelmingly indicated that the home visits helped them understand the importance of talking, reading and singing with their children beginning at birth and helped them feel more prepared to do so.

“Onondaga County is a proud partner in the Talking is Teaching campaign,” said Richard Gasiorowski, commissioner, Onondaga County Department of Children and Family Services. “We see this campaign as a strategic investment in our community because when children enter school ready, they are more likely to do well in school, graduate from high school and be prepared for success in the workforce.”

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.

Children growing up in household poverty often have a home environment that is less supportive of school readiness.

Approximately 80% 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 millions fewer words in early childhood and know fewer words by 3 years of age than their higher income counterparts.

“We recognize and celebrate parents as their children’s first and most important teachers and love how the ‘Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing’ message and materials support them in this role,” said Meg O’Connell, chair of the ECA and executive director of the Allyn Family Foundation. “The ECA is grateful to our Talking is Teaching campaign funding partners including Onondaga County, the Central New York Community Foundation, M&T Bank, Assembly members Al Stirpe and Pam Hunter, and the ECA Business Council.”

To learn more about the initiative, like and share the “Talk, Read, Sing Onondaga” Facebook page. For more information on the national campaign, including free parent-friendly resources, tips and activities, visit talkingisteaching.org.