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 language and more professional development in early learning centres would be helpful. But we won't be able to enhance children's language from one training programme for ECE teachers. The responsibility (and the challenge) for ensuring all our children have the oral language they need to thrive rests with all of us. What happens at home and in the community is a vital part of the picture.

Part of the Talking Matters campaign is to make sure more families know about the powerful connection between talk, thinking and reading success.

Other parents have said to us that they get talking is important but they really don't know what to talk about, particularly when babies are small and don't talk back. So giving families ideas for what to talk about and creating opportunities for chat is another strand of our work.

Promoting the use of home languages is particularly important as our communities become more culturally and ethnically diverse. Children deserve to be gifted their families' strongest language; children growing up learning more than one language will grow bigger brains!

Reading is a special kind of talk and the science is clear – reading to small children is wonderful for building a bond with them, as well as providing a platform for rich interaction and talk. It's never too early to start reading with baby. That's another important Talking Matters message.

We all have a part to play in making sure our infants and toddlers are wrapped around with rich talk. Libraries, churches, marae, sports clubs and communities all have a part to play. What can you do to create opportunities for playing, talking, reading, singing and storytelling in your community?


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