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Starting Strong Kicks Off Talking is Teaching Campaign in Portland, Maine

Starting Strong announced today that it is kicking off a campaign to support early learning in Portland, Maine. “Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing” is a national public awareness and action campaign of Too Small to Fail, an initiative of the Clinton Foundation that empowers parents and caregivers with fun and easy ways to improve their babies’ learning.

Portland, Maine has been recognized by the Clinton Foundation as one of only 19 Talking is Teaching communities in the United States. Starting Strong is implementing the Talking is Teaching campaign in Portland, Maine, funded in part by United Way of Greater Portland in support of Goal 1 of Thrive2027, a shared vision with three 10-year goals to improve education, financial stability, and health for every person in Greater Portland.

As part of the Portland campaign, Starting Strong is working with over a dozen community partners to display materials and distribute 500 Talking is Teaching kits. Kits include several items, such as books and onesies, to help encourage families to use everyday activities as opportunities to talk, read and sing to their young child from birth to age two.

Community partners include Catherine Morrill Day Nursery, Chestnut St. Family Shelter, Children’s Odyssey, Early Head Start, General Assistance of the City of Portland, In Her Presence, Maine Families, Northeast Hearing & Speech, Portland Public Health, Portland Public Library, St. Elizabeth’s, The Opportunity Alliance, Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program, and Youth & Family Outreach.

The campaign also includes Talking is Teaching ads in and on Metro buses, as well as online advertising in order to reach parents where they are and encourage them to talk, read, and sing to their young child. A public event is planned in April 2019 as part of the Week of the Young Child, which will feature a Metro bus with Talking is Teaching messaging and distribution of travel-themed kits.

Youth & Family Outreach participated in the Talking is Teaching pilot program in 2017 and distributed 21 kits. According to Camelia Babson-Haley, director of Youth & Family Outreach, “We decided to participate in the Talking is Teaching campaign again because it was well received by families. Several parents mentioned that it helped remind them to talk to their babies more often. And, as a provider, I appreciate that this program draws attention to the critical development occurring at this age.”

Research* indicates that frequent back-and-forth interactions, such as talking, singing and reading, between caregivers and babies in the earliest years form the foundation of social and emotional development and create neural connections in the brain that support later learning.

“Critical building blocks for literacy start earlier than many people realize. Portland Public Library has always dedicated story times, books and other resources for families to talk, read and sing,” explains Sarah Campbell, executive director of Portland Public Library. “This Talking is Teaching partnership provides kits and techniques for young families to build literacy in their everyday activities.”

About Starting Strong

Starting Strong brings together community partners to ensure children in Portland, Maine read by the end of third grade, a critical benchmark in assuring student success. The focus is on creating opportunities so that all children, from birth through age 8, will be ready for school, reading on grade level, and prepared for academic success. Starting Strong is the early age component of Portland ConnectED, a cradle-to-career initiative whose goal is that all young people graduate from high school and successfully transition to their next step.


About Too Small to Fail

Too Small to Fail, an early childhood initiative of the Clinton Foundation, promotes the importance of early brain and language development and supports parents with tools to talk, read, and sing with their young children from birth. Today, almost 60 percent of children in the United States start kindergarten unprepared, lagging behind their peers in critical language and reading skills. Through partnerships with pediatricians, hospitals, faith-based leaders, community-based organizations, businesses, entertainment industry leaders, and others, Too Small to Failis meeting parents where they are to help them prepare their children for success in school and beyond. Whether at the pediatrician’s office or the playground, Too Small to Failaims to make small moments big by creating opportunities for meaningful interactions anytime, anywhere.

*Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (2015). How Children’s Social Competence Impacts their Well- being in Adulthood. Available online: http://www. rwjf.org/en/library/research/2015/07/how-children- s-social-competence-impacts-their-well-being-in- adu.html; Jones, Damon E., Mark Greenberg, and Max Crowley. (2015). Early social-emotional functioning and public health: The relationship between kindergarten social competence and future wellness. American Journal Public Health, 105(11), 2283–2290.