Education

Building babies brains one step at a time

There are many good things that parents can do for their children, but one of the most important is talking to them — early and often. The way you talk to your baby literally builds his or her brain.

At Studer Community Institute, we’ve coined a slogan: Build a Brain, Build a Life, Build a Community. And one of the best ways to make this happen is through parent engagement.

As SCI Parent Outreach Coordinator, I spend a lot of time meeting and talking with community stakeholders, parents and educators, and analyzing and comparing programs centered on early education and parent involvement.

The central purpose of my efforts is to assist parents with children 0 to 3 years old, so they can do the right things to help build their babies brains. The goal is to ensure that the young children reach and surpass developmental milestones and are prepared and ready for kindergarten.

Young children flourish when the people caring for them work well together. Partnerships allow children to see important people in their lives working on their behalf to improve their chances of achieving success in their lives.

Vicki Pugh, program improvement director for the Early Learning Coalition of Escambia County, is one of those people. Pugh is working with SCI and local daycares to implement programs to help mothers understand the importance of communicating with their children.

Through LENA (Language Environmental Analysis), parents and daycare workers can measure and monitor the quanity- and quality of words they use with babies and children. Pugh also is working with me in a partnership to help children mentor children.

A group of teachers at Warrington Elementary have partnered together to allow older students to mentor a Early Headstart classroom.  Every child wins from this partnership.  The older boys need to nurture and be nurtured. The hope is to develop this remarkable partnership in a program that could be duplicated throughout other schools.

Kimberly Corner, owner and operator of Kim’s Mini Blessings Development Center on Pace Boulevard is one of two daycares in Escambia County that is using the LENA program. Mini Blessings is situated in pockets of poverty and Ms. Cobbs is interested in SCI’s efforts to provide assistance to help mothers help their young children.

Last week throughout the country, schools and daycares celebrated Dr. Suess’ birthday through the annual Read Across America that involves reading his books to children.

At Kinderworld, I read to a group of Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten kids and shared SCI’s early learning and parent outreach initiatives with the staff to build community support and partnerships in our efforts to create parent outreach programs.

The key to reaching parents is finding the right program and bringing it to them. Moreno Court has an Early Head Start program and a facility that offers a captive audience of parents and children. It offers the ideal scenario to set up a program to reach parents. Transportation can be a barrier to participation and success in areas identified as “pockets of poverty.” As the saying goes, “If Muhammad won’t go to the mountain, the mountain will go to Muhammad.”

Another place to build partnerships and relationships is through churches. At Englewood Missionary Baptist Church, the Rev. Larry Watson is eager to offer assistance in reaching and helping parents.

Spreading the word about SCI’s early education initiatives is vital to its success. Showing, rather than just telling, parents how to talk to their babies is critical.

We taped segments to air on BlabTV to offer parents important tips on communicating with their children. The segments focused on the three T’s: tune in, talk more and take turns.

In the book “Thirty Million Words: Building a Child’s Brain,” Dana Suskind talks about ways parents and adults can help children develop the crucial and incredibly important skill of communication. Our TV program will model those critical skills in a series of programs aimed at parents to help them build their babies brains.

We are taking the first steps in the long journey to improve the quality of lives through early education and getting children ready for kindergarten. Every contact made, each partnership created is another step closer to nurturing successful lives in talking to children in important ways to build their brains.

If you want to help or know someone who has ideas, suggestions or just want to talk about SCI’s labor of love in early learning, email rdogan@studeri.org, or call (850) 529-6485.