Small Talk Story County & Raising a Reader
Small Talk Story County (STSC) focuses on helping parents improve the quantity and quality of the language environment of the home. The amount of parental language input to children directly impacts children's brain development. Children who receive less enriching language from parents demonstrate slower and less efficient language processing, which can be measured by 18 months (Fernald, Marchman, & Weislder, 2013). This directly affects the child’s ability to acquire literacy skills, which the lack of is associated with a host of negative consequences including lack of motivation, dropping out of school, delinquency, poor employment opportunities, poverty, and poor health (Baker et al., 2007). Fortunately, this long-lasting consequence can be avoided.
The current round of STSC classes are taking place at the Ames Public Library and run through May.
Raising a Reader uses much of the same kind of information as Small Talk Story County, but uses RRSC curriculum, which makes it more adaptable to the parents and children in that session. The next session of Raising a Reader will be at ChildServe in Winter 2017.
Small Talk Story County will use the LENA Start program, which was developed to address this language gap. The patented LENA System records language throughout a child's day, then translates the recording into data that show parents how much they're talking so they can improve, and how they are progressing. The LENA is like a “language pedometer”. Like the Fitbit, it provides the user with data, goals and progress. In addition, the Smarter Happier Baby parenting class adds an instructional program that helps parents reach their goals. It consists of 8 one-hour, motivational parent group sessions, using engaging videos, presentations, and written materials in both English and Spanish. Focused on parent behavior change, the program encourages reading with children, singing with them, and using "Talking Tips" to increase interactive language throughout the day. Take-home materials include free books for shared reading with children. Additionally, The LENA Start program empowers families to be their child's first teacher, and positive contributor to their child's brain development. Graduates of the 8-week sequence return for monthly reinforcement sessions for up to a year. Because this program will be carried out in partnership with other community programs that support literacy, we aim to keep parents engaged with other literacy activities in the community beyond the LENA Start program. For example, parents may use the library more often, and attend special events such as "Step into Storybooks", which get parents and kids excited about reading. The goal is to start families off right with their connection to their children and learning how to provide an enriching home environment, and then keep families engaged in supporting their children's development by including them in the community of learners.
Watch the videos for more information on the program itself!