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Talking to babies is everybody's business

There's been a bit of media attention about early language over the last couple of weeks, which is good to see. The evidence is clear – talking is vital for infants wellbeing. The quality and quality of interaction and talk that babies experience grows and shapes their brain. It sets them up to form positive relationships and lifelong learning. However, often the focus of attention is on early learning services. Of course children deserve high quality care. We agree that more focus on langu...

June 26, 2017

The real adventure begins now

I promised a second blog to share what I learnt in San Francisco and outline how we might use these insights. In my previous post I talked about 'getting clear' in what we want to achieve. That provocation has sat with me every day since my return. What is Talking Matters to me? We're a social equity campaign, raising awareness of the importance of early oral language. We're helping parents, communities, and businesses take specific actions to improve the interactions that Auckland tamariki ...

May 22, 2017

Getting clear in fog city

I have just returned from a 10 day trip to San Francisco, presenting at the prestigious Carnegie Foundation Summit on Improvement in Education. Educators from around the world were impressed with the innovative approaches people in Aotearoa are taking to improve children's oral language – especially the way we collaborate with a wide range of people and organisations and collect data to inform how effective our efforts are. I co-presented to a full audience with our partners at Ko Awatea an...

April 13, 2017

The Intersection of culture and talk

The March Talking Matters network meeting was particularly powerful because it focused on the intersection of culture and talk. Rae Si'ilata spoke about Wantok Talanoa. We can develop fluency by utilising current practices such as: text memorisation, story telling, tauloto (oral performance and recitation), song, poetry and dance. It is about recognition of bilingualism as a cognitive, social, and educational advantage. Huia Hawke shared what it is like to talk more and differently with h...

April 6, 2017

Weaving oral language into family literacy

In February 2017, we began working alongside 10 tertiary tutors who teach more than 120 adults in a family literacy programme Whānau Ara Mua, a Certificate in Intergenerational Learning - through the Solomon Group. One of our key partners Dr Jannie van Hees and Emma Quigan designed a set of short sessions for the tutors to incorporate into their existing programme. The parents are giving us feedback on what happens when they interact and play with children, which will help us shape other re...

March 31, 2017

Measuring talk at home

Very small children develop their early language at home. In order to find out more about talking to children at home, project manager Emma Quigan has been working with a small group of parents and pre-schoolers. The group has been exploring what kinds of tools and ideas are helpful for parents to talk more and talk differently with their children. Parents are using the data to find opportunities in their daily routines to talk more and talk differently. They are also using innovative technology...

March 15, 2017

Akaaka Kōrero

Talking Matters' first community project started in February, with 13 community organisations that connect with families in Māngere-Ōtāhuhu. The collaborative has called itself Akaaka Kōrero. Akaaka represents the root or vine of early language that the collaborative is nurturing so children will thrive. We are delighted to be working and learning with these organisations to enhance early oral language. Ko Awatea has taught us the basics of quality improvement to help us reach our goal of ...

March 8, 2017

Why I changed focus from adult education to toddlers’ talk

Alison Sutton is the Director of Talking Matters. Alison describes the journey that led her to start a campaign aimed at encouraging talking more and talking different with small children. For 30 years I have been working in adult literacy, seeing a pipeline of people with low skills and low confidence in themselves as learners, a pipeline that never reduces. I have been COMET Auckland's manager for literacy and family learning for a number of years. A highlight has been my involvement in...

March 1, 2017

Tāmaki Toddlers Day out

Back in early December, we took Talking Matters to the Tāmaki Toddlers' Day Out. We spoke informally with parents about the importance of talk, and how it builds babies' brains. We shared how singing and chatting to babies spurs on their brain development. We ran an informal poll and asked parents how they heard messages like this, and what media they preferred. Parents voted on the best way to spread messages about the importance of talk. Most families thought that the best way to reach them ...

February 14, 2017

Talk over summer

The top take away ideas from the November network meeting were about finding ways to promote talking and reading over summer. David Tucker from Pt. Chevalier Library shared the idea of an empty box to prompt storytelling and drawing. It is an interactive way to tell a story, by drawing characters and events in the sides of the box. It can be used as a prompt to re-tell the story afterwards. Linda Biddle from the Bream Bay Learning Initiative and the Storytime foundation had examples of how to...

January 30, 2017

The kick off

The early years – especially the first 1000 days – are critical in a child's development, "says Talking Matters director Alison Sutton. "Eighty per cent of the brain develops in these first three years … and a child's experiences lay down the architecture for social, emotional and physical development." International research shows some children have heard 30 million more words at four years, which is twice what others hear at the same age. New Zealand research shows some children start ...

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