Georgia ranks as one of the lowest states in the nation for literacy and high school graduation. Nearly seventy percent of Georgia’s children are unable to read proficiently by third grade, which marks an important educational time when students transition from learning to read to reading to learn. In response to this illiteracy epidemic, Get Georgia Reading – Georgia’s Campaign for Grade Level Reading set an expectation in 2013 that by 2020, every child in Georgia would be on a path to reading proficiently by the end of third grade. Bridging the Word Gap Research Network member, Arianne Weldon directs the Get Georgia Reading campaign which engaged hundreds of public and private partners from across the state to work together. Four core pillars were identified as the foundation of the campaign, one of which was language nutrition™, the language rich adult-child interactions that nourish or facilitate brain development.
Talk With Me Baby (TWMB) was born from conversations surrounding how to ensure that all children have access to language nutrition™. In 2013, TWMB was awarded a three year, $1.5 million “Dare to Forget the Box” prize from the United Way of Greater Atlanta to include language nutrition coaching as a core competency of the nursing workforce. TWMB has gained national attention, being highlighted in the White House Summit on Early Childhood Education, and is currently conducting a randomized control trial to evaluate the TWMB approach. Bridging the Word Gap Network Members: Drs. Ashley Darcy Mahoney, Jennifer Stapel-Wax, Bryan Williams, and Emerging Research Scholar, Lauren Head assist with this work. Due to the scale of the TWMB program, it is guided collectively by a team of leaders, from Georgia’s Department of Public Health and Department of Education, Emory University’s School of Nursing and Department of Pediatrics , the Marcus Autism Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, the Atlanta Speech School’s Rollins Center for Language and Literacy, and Get Georgia Reading – Georgia’s Campaign for Grade Level Reading.
Talk With Me Baby (TWMB) is a cross-sector coalition focused on bridging the word gap and promoting third grade literacy in Georgia by building the capacity of parents and caregivers to provide the language nutrition™ necessary to nourish brain development required for higher learning. TWMB seeks to create statewide systemic change by establishing a wide-reaching public health, clinical and early childhood education workforce that can coach parents and caregivers to become conversational partners with their baby by demonstrating language exchanges and encouraging language-rich and socially engaging interactions.
TWMB is utilizing a four-pronged approach:
- design and implement a curriculum to train OB/GYN, labor and delivery, neonatal and pediatric nurses, midwives and WIC nutritionists to understand the importance of language nutrition™ and acquire skills to coach parents on this critical behavior;
- provide universal access to preschool educators to effectively teach language and vocabulary skills;
- maximize technology to design and deliver reinforcements and reminders for parents to deliver language nutrition with their babies; and
- evaluate the efficacy of the language nutrition™ intervention using a comprehensive logic model and research plan including randomized clinical trial and measurement of language nutrition™ performance and child language outcomes.
By integrating language nutrition™ coaching as a core competency across large-scale workforces of nurses, WIC nutritionists, and early educational professionals, TWMB systematically strengthens and reinforces the capacity of all parents and caregivers to deliver vital language nutrition™ to their children, starting before birth.