Our guest author today is Douglas Yeager, President of the Nancy M. and Douglas M. Yeager Family Foundation, a non-profit established in 2001 focused on programs delivering or supporting childhood development. This focus is based on Nancy Yeager's lifelong interest in and commitment to early childhood education. Her love of teaching inspired her family to establish the Foundation.
Talk, talk, talk – odd as that may sound, a growing body of compelling research shows this to be a very effective strategy to reduce early language gaps among children from different socioeconomic backgrounds. And, fortunately, it doesn’t cost a cent.
If caring parents want their child to be ready for school (and for life after school), they should talk with that child at every opportunity. And, of course, it is also fundamental to listen and to respond appropriately. Conversations, after all, are two-way.
That said, parents need to be the ones initiating the practice, persisting in it, and never giving up. It means so very much to children, and it pays off big-time. As my colleagues at the Shanker Institute like to say: “You don’t need a lot of money to give your child a head start; conversations and ideas cost nothing."
The Yeager Family Foundation is exploring a variety of ways to promote this idea directly to parents and early childhood development professionals through national, regional, and local channels. We are reviewing a range of English-language and Spanish-language materials that could be made available to parents via the Web, through prenatal programs, doctors’ offices, family centers, health centers, community centers, health departments, training programs, etc. Most are the products of respected organizations in the field, but we are also creating a few pieces of our own to fill gaps where free, high-quality materials are not available. For example, watch this segment of a forthcoming children’s book focused on this important topic:
This parental/caregiver initiative is a natural add-on to other early childhood education programs that our family foundation has supported over the past dozen years. These include: summer teacher residencies for P-5 teachers from 17 states; live classical music performances delivered to youngsters in Colorado and Illinois; a library program for beginning readers in Illinois; early childhood development programs within a city-wide youth and family centers organization in Wisconsin; college scholarships in Ohio and Colorado; and a children’s garden program at a wonderful arboretum in Illinois.
As President of the Yeager Family Foundation, I am also excited to collaborate with the Albert Shanker Institute on various initiatives supporting oral language and background knowledge development in very young children. If you have not already seen it, I urge you to watch this excellent animation, which was produced by the Shanker Institute. It focuses on all of the key elements of talking with a young child, and explains why our organizations have made this a priority.
Don't miss these two resources, and please think about how you can pass them on to those individuals and organizations who could most benefit from them.
- Douglas Yeager