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Talk With Me Baby Toolkit Expands “Language Nutrition” Resources Nationwide


The Talk With Me Baby (TWMB) initiative launched a new national toolkit on Sept. 15 at the invitation-only White House Summit on Behavioral Science Insights. During the summit, the White House Administration also released the Social and Behavioral Sciences Team (SBST) Second Annual Report.

The toolkit launch is made possible through a new partnership with The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy that will help the initiative expand its training and resources—which thus far have been deployed only in Georgia—nationwide.

TWMB is a public action campaign aimed at coaching parents and caregivers on Language Nutrition—language sufficiently rich in engagement, quality, quantity, and context that it nourishes the child neurologically, socially, and linguistically.

TWMB was formed in 2013 through a collaborative partnership among the Get Georgia Reading Campaign, Marcus Autism Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Emory University’s Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta Speech School, Georgia Department of Public Health, and Georgia Department of Education.

Lead researchers Arianne Weldon, MPH, director of the Get Georgia Reading Campaign, and Jennifer Stapel-Wax, PsyD, associate professor at Emory University School of Medicine, managed the development of the toolkit at the request of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

“Through the TWMB collaborative and our new online toolkit, Georgia is leading the way in ensuring that all children—here in our state and now across the country—receive the abundant Language Nutrition that supports their early brain development and represents a critical pillar in preparing them for success in school and life,” said Weldon. “We are deeply grateful to the United Way of Greater Atlanta for its leadership and vision in providing the initial investment that has enabled this collective impact effort.”

The toolkit will serve as a model for other states aiming to adopt the TWMB approach and integrate Language Nutrition coaching as a competency among workforces already reaching new parents and babies—such as nurses, WIC staff, foster parents and other child welfare stakeholders, and more.

Generous financial support from the Barbara Bush Foundation has enabled the team to create the online toolkit for nurses and other large-scale workforces that can serve as Language Nutrition coaches. The toolkit consists of a training curriculum, videos, and relevant resources, and partner efforts such as the new TWMB Scholastic Book that encourages new parents to read to and talk with their babies.

Narrative conversation with babies at the earliest ages stimulates brain development and builds language, literacy, and social emotional skills. Children who do not read on grade level by the third grade are four to six times more likely to eventually drop out of school. Eighty-five percent of all neurons are developed by age three, and simply talking to babies drastically improves their chances of academic success.

“There is a huge increase in the capacity of the brain that occurs in the last part of pregnancy right before babies are born,” explains Brenda Fitzgerald, MD, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health and Get Georgia Reading Cabinet member. “Babies are hard wired to learn different languages at the earliest age and how they learn first is from the caretakers. We have to leverage the simple practice across the board of talking to babies and toddlers in order to nourish their brains and set them up for better performance in school and life.”

As a complement to the nationwide toolkit launch, the Barbara Bush Foundation hosted the first TWMB training for Washington, D.C. area healthcare providers today. The Foundation will soon begin providing training for nurses and other staff, upon request, at hospitals nationwide. To request a training opportunity, hospitals can email the Foundation.

TWMB is Georgia’s first large-scale approach at applying the Get Georgia Reading Campaign’s pillar of Language Nutrition, which is one of four pillars that Georgia leaders have identified as being critical to ensuring children achieve reading proficiency by the end of third grade.

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TWMB leadership team members Jennifer Stapel-Wax, Arianne Weldon, and Kimberly Ross stand in front of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building where the White House Summit on Behavioral Science Insights took place on Sept. 15.