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 “Talk, Read, Sing,” an early childhood literacy initiative designed to promote healthy development of children, ages 0-3, has been launched in Evanston. Parents who sign up for the program will receive texts on their cell phones that provide tips on how to promote their child’s brain development and early literacy skills. The program is modeled after similar programs thoughout the country that have had positive results, and was developed by the Parent/Caregiver Empowerment Team of the Evanston Cradle to Career Initiative (EC2C), in collaboration with the Evanston Public Library.

Research shows that an environment that is nurturing, responsive and language-rich is critical in the first three years of life, when a child’s brain is creating 700-1,000 neural connections every second. Beginning shortly after birth, responsive interactions between parents and their children affect the formation of the neural connections and the circuity of the developing brain. In the next three years, talking, reading, and signing to a child continue to shape the architecture of the developing brain. Positive interactions establish a strong foundation for more effective learning capacities in the future.

 “Studies confirm that regular reading, singing and talking to very young children from birth forward, as simple as it sounds, is essential for preparing all children to learn, builds early vocabulary, and contributes to healthy brain development,” says Laura Antolin, Co-chair of the Parent/Caregiver Empowerment Team and Children’s Community Outreach Librarian at Evanston Public Library (EPL). “The more words children hear and learn from parents and caregivers, the greater their chance of success through the preschool and kindergarten years which lay the foundation for future growth and success.”

Research has shown that by age four, children in low-income families hear 30 million fewer words than children in middle- or upper-income families. The differences at age four, correlate with differences in vocabulary and test scores in third grade.

The Talk, Read, Sing initiative is aimed at parents and caregivers of children ages 0-3. Parents and caregivers who sign up for the program will receive simple text message reminders twice a week, such as: talking about colors when taking a walk, playing peek-a-boo when dressing a child, singing as you pick up toys, and reminders to read books every day.

The Parent Empowerment Team, EPL, and a parent advisory committee looked at a wide range of texts used in other programs throughout the country and selected those that would be appropriate for families in Evanston, said Sheila Merry, Executive Director of EC2C. The parent advisory team will continue to give feedback on an ongoing basis, she said.

“With the Talk, Read, Sing initiative, we hope to support parents and caregivers by providing timely and helpful tips and reminders of the importance of early learning, said Karen Danczak Lyons, Director of EPL. “As a child’s first teacher, parents have a key role in building the foundation for success in school and in life. This process of learning together can be filled with fun while being highly impactful on a child’s early brain development.”

Parents/caregivers who wish to sign up to receive the texts through the Talk, Read, Sing program may text COE TRS1 to 468311.

EPL is reaching out to families of young children, through the library, at preschools, Head Start programs and home daycare establishments in Evanston. Questions about the Talk, Read, Sing program can be emailed to Ms. Antolin.

Talk, Read, Sing also recommends that parents and caregivers of children, ages 0-3, should use a free app called “Vroom,” developed by Jeff Bazos, founder and Chief Executive Officer of Amazon. Parents can sign up for daily tests on the app that suggest activities for their children, or go to the website to get suggestions and ideas of possible activities.

“I don’t think any of us think this is the answer to having all kids ready for kindergarten,” said Ms. Merry. “But collective impact is a cumulative effect.” She said this program along with others with have “the cumulative impact we want on long-term literacy.”

Larry Gavin

Larry Gavin was a co-founder of the Evanston RoundTable in 1998 and assisted in its conversion to a non-profit in 2021. He has received many journalism awards for his articles on education, housing and...