A growing body of research about early childhood education and cognitive development suggests that chatting with children, particularly from birth to age 3, is crucial. That thinking is at the heart of the program that Virginia Beach is now expanding with a nearly $450,000 grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies.
Parents receive small “talk pedometers,” devices that count both the number of words spoken in the child’s presence and the number of conversational interactions between caretaker and child.
“We are seeing a lot of families across all demographics that were distracted. We’re not making time for as much human interaction as we used to,” said Barb Lito, coordinator of Virginia Beach’s GrowSmart, which leads the state’s only such initiative. “Talking with children is what will really help stimulate that positive brain development.”
Virginia Beach is one of five cities nationwide recently chosen by the Bloomberg charitable foundation to replicate a Providence, R.I.-based initiative that teaches parents of young children about the importance of language in development.