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Talk With Me Baby

0002-Gracie 06/02/15

The Barbara Bush Foundation is proud to be advocating further for childhood literacy in our recent partnership with Talk With Me Baby™, a Georgia-based early learning initiative. TWMB is a public action campaign aimed at coaching parents and caregivers on “Language Nutrition”—language rich in engagement, quality, quantity, and context that nourishes the child neurologically, socially, and linguistically. By encouraging parents to see talking with their babies as the first step in the communication process, TWMB hopes to increase each individual child’s educational opportunities and future success.

According to Dr. Dana Suskind in her book, Thirty Million Words: Building a Child’s Brain, it’s not only a gap in the quantity of words that children hear that is disturbing, but also the quality of the words. Children of professionals receive about 30 positive affirmations an hour – five times more than what the children of parents on welfare hear.

Not only do children of working-class and welfare parents hear fewer total words, but they also hear far fewer affirmative words – verbal encouragement with the power to instill children with confidence in their own abilities and bolster their future academic performance. We know all parents want the best for their baby, which is why it is our goal, through the TWMB partnership, to provide the tools to help children achieve success in school and throughout their lives.

So, how TWMB does it work? What’s unique about this initiative is that it targets nurses and healthcare providers because of their easy access to parents of infants. Nurses play a dedicated role in the care of pregnant moms, from months before labor to years after in pediatric offices. Each time a mom and baby make a visit to the doctor’s office, it’s a great opportunity for everyone on staff to talk with the baby and remind the parents of how crucial it is for language development. Everyone from the staff at the front desk to the physician’s assistant can reinforce the efforts to talk with the baby.

The Barbara Bush Foundation will help the TWMB initiative expand its training and bring the model to scale. The recent development of an online toolkit will make all of the curricula, training tools, and marketing and promotional assets readily available, and will equip nurses and healthcare providers to serve as Language Nutrition coaches in their own communities. By helping TWMB launch these tools nationwide, the Barbara Bush Foundation hopes to provide each child equal opportunity to achieve the American dream.

In 2014, Dr. Betty Vohr, director of Women & Infants Hospital’s Neonatal Follow-up Clinic, published a study that proved just how significant early exposure to adult talk is for developmental outcomes. It is known that preterm infants are at greater risk for language delay, so Dr. Vohr set out to provide evidence that preterm infants’ exposure to adult words in the NICU are associated with better cognitive and language outcomes at 7 and 18 months corrected age. The study found that over a 36-week period, adult word count per hour independently accounted for 26% of the variance in cognitive composite scores at 7 months. Something as simple as talking and singing to your baby has such a powerful impact!

As our founder, former First Lady Barbara Bush once said, “The home is the child’s first school and the parent is the child’s first teacher.” Our goal is to empower parents to be that teacher, and create the building blocks of their literacy and language development. Are you passionate about supporting early literacy education? Here’s how you can get involved and help spread the TWMB initiative to health care providers in your own community.

Get in Touch

You may also contact us by phone at 850.562.5300 or by mail at:
Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy
516 North Adams Street • Tallahassee, Florida 32301