Friday, May 30, 2014

Talk with children campaign takes off

Talk with children campaign takes off

May 30, 2014
FAIRFIELD — A “talking is teaching” campaign aims to educate parents about the importance of communicating with their children, people who attended a Solano Economic Development Corp.
breakfast meeting heard Thursday.

Susan True, who has a master’s degree in business administration from Stanford University and was introduced as among the smart, talented and driven people from the Bay Area, said grandmothers have always known that when a baby coos, you coo back.

Playing peek-a-boo, True said, “is top-notch neuroscience.”

Now a public education campaign will emphasize those and other points in a Bay Area Council program to reinforce the message promoted by First 5 California, the statewide commission established after a 1998 ballot proposition championed by actor Rob Reiner.

Tote bags and a clothing line are among the methods to promote Talking is Teaching.

True told the Solano business group that Hollywood screenwriters, along with Hillary Clinton, are emphasizing that message as well.

“Our approach is to turn the world into a learning opportunity,” True said.

Clinton is part of a Too Small to Fail program to aid young children and she and Reiner are galvanizing screenwriters to include the Talking is Teaching message in entertainment, True said.

The Bezos Foundation established by the founder of is creating a computer application to emphasize Talking is Teaching, True said, and “Sesame Street” is participating in the effort as well.

The Stanford MBA grad said that when, as a child, her grandfather read stories and her mother read books to her, “I knew I was loved.”

She cited an article in The New York Times about what a writer called “capital S stress” – the daily setbacks that True said residents of very high-poverty communities face. Such problems reinforce that they have little control over their lives and, over time, impede the early childhood development of their offspring, True said.

Children hear, “Sit down” and “Stop playing” while children in affluent families may be told, “I love the way you tie your shoes,” True said.

Socio-economic disparities are evident at 18 months, she said. By age 2, children in high-poverty communities are likely to be six months behind their affluent peers, True said.

True said the public education campaign is taking its cue from Kaiser Permanente broadcast spots that promote health and talk about the benefits of walking up the stairs at Bay Area Rapid Transit stations rather than taking an escalator. Kaiser Permanente’s messages keep it simple about promoting health, she said.

A First 5 California commercial announces that babies brains develop “with your every word.”

“It’s free and easy and something you can do any time,” the announcer says. “Talk. Read. Sing.”

Suisun City Councilman Mike Segala, who attended the event, said not all children will be doctors, attorneys and CEOs. The Bay Area Council campaign should include such messages as “My daddy’s a carpenter” and “My mommy’s an electrician” when emphasizing the importance of parents talking to their young children, he said.

True agreed and said message testing with First 5 California found some families offended by images of only doctors and engineers in white-collar jobs.

“They don’t have to be going to Harvard,” she said of students. But we want to make sure they have skills, True said.

Segala after the event spoke about the crucial role of parents and family in children’s success and recalled how as the father of two daughters he linked their allowances to reading books. One daughter is now a civil engineer and the other is a geologist.

Jay Speck, Solano County superintendent of schools and chairman of the First 5 Commission for the county, said during the meeting at the Hilton Garden Inn that the Talking is Teaching program is “shining a light on the importance of early learning.”

“All the dots lead back to early childhood,” he said of success in school.

“The need in our community is limitless,” Speck said.

Every $1 spent on preschool returns $2.78 in the future, he said.

Speck quoted the late writer Neil Postman, who said, “Children are the living messages we send to a time we may not see.”

Reach Ryan McCarthy at 427-6935 or