Something very special is happening in Fresno right now – something you might be starting to feel the impacts of or right on the verge of witnessing it. Fresno is home to numerous educational institutions, non-profits and human service agencies however historically, they have operated somewhat independently, at times creating many service “islands” operating almost in a bubble. However, recently that has begun to change. The Children’s Movement is a collaborative group that has one common goal – to make sure that in all things, children and their best interests are considered – whether it be City planning and ensuring there is green space for future families to play, or researching factors that are contributing to children not graduating from high school and working to mitigate them.
Locally, The Children’s Movement is supported by over 90 organizations and businesses who meet monthly and break into task teams to address key issues affecting children. Currently, focus areas include school attendance, summer learning loss, oral health (a major factor in overall health and school attendance) and early childhood education.
I’ve been attending the meetings for about a year now, and currently, the work being accomplished by the early learning task team is one of the neatest things I’ve seen pop up in a community. Some of the group members became aware of an awareness and education campaign that was happening in Oakland, CA called “Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing.” This campaign came about because research brought to light by Too Small to Fail (Bill and Hilary Clinton’s foundation) revealed that children who come from low-income or otherwise at-risk homes hear 30 MILLION fewer words than their more privileged peers by the time they’re three years old. Yes – that’s right – 30 MILLION. The same research also explains that when children are spoken to, read to or sung to it helps their brains to develop, makes them feel loved and contributes to vocabulary building and future literacy skills. So by doing something as simple as talking, reading or singing to a young child, you’re actually helping them to be a stronger reader in the future.
The early childhood education task group is made up from representatives from First 5 Fresno County, the Fresno County Public Library, Granville Homes, the Fresno County Office of Education, Fresno Unified School District, Fresno County Head Start and Early Start, Fowler Unified School District, Central Unified School District, The Highway City Thrift Store and Neighborhood Community Center and myself, representing my employer, ValleyPBS/channel 18 (among others). Together, this task group is bringing Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing to the Central Valley in a big way.
Talking is Teaching is something you’ll begin to see all over the Valley. Fowler Unified has been the first school district to adopt Talking is Teaching as a district value – meaning they are training all staff in the importance of talking, reading and singing to young children, so that everyone can infuse that message into the community through their interactions with parents and children on a daily basis. A press conference was held on January 22nd at Malaga Elementary School and the Talking is Teaching campaign officially began that day. Talking is Teaching offers encouraging reminders to talk, read and sing through billboards, radio and television messaging, hand-outs and posters, kits sent home from the hospital with new babies – and soon through signs and cards in local businesses. All of the signs offer ideas for things to talk to children about and are filled with sweet and easy to understand graphics.
Currently, the campaign is launching in English and Spanish, with hopes to expand to more languages soon. Granville Homes has generously donated $100,000 to the campaign in order to help it grow rapidly.
If you are part of a local business or organization who would like to get behind this campaign either through support or displaying materials – you can contact the local campaign through the Facebook page and if you’re a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle or caregiver for young children you should definitely give the page a ‘like’ as there will be numerous resources shared to help everyone support young learners.
There is an energy of excitement behind all of the collaborative work that is happening for the good of Valley children, and I think families from Fresno to Fowler and beyond will be benefiting greatly from these efforts. Look for the Talking is Teaching prompts throughout the community in the coming weeks and don’t forget to talk, read and sing with the young children in your life!