The importance of early childhood literacy and providing caregivers with the tools to enhance a child’s development was the focus of a “Talking is Teaching” event Wednesday night.
Talking is Teaching is a new effort 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.
“It might seem strange to have an adult conversation with a 10-month-old or 2-year-old child, but it’s our role. We can help children grow and be ready for school simply by talking, singing and reading with them,” said Kujanga Jackson, pastor at New Beginnings Community Church, 1401 Charles Page Blvd., where the event was held.
Researchers say an average child from a low-income family usually knows 500 words by age 4, while a child from a working-class family generally knows 700 and a child from a professional family knows 1,100.
The goal of the initiative is to close that word gap.
Talking is Teaching is a partnership between the George Kaiser Family Foundation, the Community Action Project of Tulsa County, Tulsa Educare and Too Small to Fail — a joint initiative of Next Generation and the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation.
Caleb Gayle, program officer with the Kaiser Foundation, said a poll of low-income parents determined that their most trusted messengers on raising their children are those in the medical and education professions, as well as the ministry.
New Beginnings is one of several area churches that are partners in the initiative, delivering messages on the importance of talking, reading and singing in child development and by hosting events to model good parenting and child interaction, Gayle said.
Other components of the initiative include a partnership with the Parent Child Center of Tulsa to provide the parents of every newborn a guide with materials to prompt caregiver-child engagement and a partnership with Tulsa Transit, where encouraging posters are placed inside buses.
“Our overall effort is to demonstrate that every opportunity, whether in a car, bus or church, every one of those is an opportunity to learn for your child,” Gayle said. “Cooking dinner, eating food or when a child is on your lap — that is an opportunity to attach with a child and enhance that child’s learning experience.”
Sandie Stewart, a member of New Beginnings Community Church, attended the meeting with her granddaughter, Jordan Stewart, to help increase her interest in reading.
She said she plans to share what she learns with the girl’s parents so they can reinforce the same skills at their home.
“Learning to love reading, writing and singing is something that will help them their whole life,” Stewart said. “Reading together is a very special bonding time that makes us slow down and take it easy and not be so rushed in our lives.”
Mike Averill 918-581-8489