New Campaign Makes Every Word Count

HilaryFormer Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Oakland last week to launch a new campaign focused on helping parents turn everyday activities into enriching vocabulary-building experiences for their children.

Sponsored by the Bay Area Council, Too Small to Fail, Kaiser Permanente, UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, and the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, the ‘Talking is Teaching: Talk Read Sing’ campaign is designed to reduce the “word gap” that puts many low-income children behind their higher income peers before they even start kindergarten.

About the Word Gap

Research shows that low-income children hear about 30 million fewer words than children in high-income families by the time they’re four years old. The more words children hear – whether it’s talking, reading or singing – the richer their vocabulary becomes and the better they do in school. For many children, the word gap leads to an achievement gap that persists into school and beyond. Continue reading

Hollywood Tackles the “Word Gap”

“If money wasn’t an object and you could fund any major intervention for children, what would it be?”

That was the question posed to Dr. Bruce Perry, the nation’s expert on early childhood development and trauma, when we hosted him for a seminar earlier this year.

Dr. Perry said he would focus on a wide public education effort to help the general public better understand core concepts of early childhood brain development. To do that, he suggested integrating these concepts into television programs. So as you’re watching your favorite comedy, for example, you may also get a dose of important early childhood concepts or learn about how critical brain development is during a child’s first three years. Continue reading

Ensuring Opportunity, Not Poverty

As the economy recovers from the Great Recession, the gap between rich and poor is widening, leaving poor families and individuals further behind. This is true in Contra Costa County, where nearly 200,000 Contra Costa residents live in poverty and even more struggle to make ends meet.

In a county with a median annual income of $78,000, you might be surprised to learn that:

  • More than 65,000 families and individuals receive CalFresh (food stamps); half are children, many are seniors and most are working. 48,000 more are eligible, but not enrolled.
  • The Food Bank serves 149,000 people every month.
  • On any given night, 4,000 individuals and families seek shelter, yet there are only 382 beds available in homeless shelters. One-third of the homeless are children.

Poverty is hard for everyone but particularly toxic to children, who account for 20% of Contra Costa’s low-income population. When babies and toddlers are raised in poverty, they are much more likely to experience excessive, traumatic stress that interrupts healthy brain development. This disadvantage starts early and sticks. Continue reading

Sleep and Bedtime Routines

Portrait of Asian child sleeping on the bedYoung children need a lot of sleep. In fact, sleep is the brain’s primary activity during early development. It’s during sleep that the brain sorts through and stores information, replaces chemicals, and solves problems.

Studies show just one hour less of sleep a night during early childhood has long-lasting effects on proper language and cognitive development. Lack of sleep can also lead to behavioral problems, like hyperactivity, trouble managing emotions and poor concentration skills.

Sleep Guidelines

Every child is different, but there are basic guidelines about how much sleep kids need. According to the National Sleep Foundation:

  • Newborns sleep up to 20 hours a day.
  • By six months, babies will sleep up to 16 hours a day and may sleep through the night – which may only be a stretch of five to six hours in a row.
  • Toddlers need 12 to 14 hours of sleep a day between nighttime sleep and naps.
  • Preschoolers need about 10 to 13 hours a day.
  • Kids ages 5 and up still need about 10 hours a day.

Continue reading