Hodges’ Cradle to K Cabinet launches project tackling word gap

Mayor Betsy Hodges’ Cradle to K Cabinet has launched a new initiative called Talking=Teaching designed to tackle the word gap among young children in the city.

The University of Minnesota and Think Small have secured a $150,000 matching grant through the LENA Foundation to kick off the project. Hodges has also proposed $50,000 in the city’s 2016 budget for the initiative.

The goal is to reach about 1,500 young children in the city in 2016. The program will focus on increasing early language interactions between the children and caregivers to help build the babies’ vocabularies and promote brain development. 

Besides the University of Minnesota and Think Small, other partners include the Clinton Foundation, Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, the Northside Achievement Zone, Way to Grow and the Greater Twin Cities United Way. Landscape Structures in Delano is the project’s first corporate sponsor.

Young children who grow up in language-deprived environments hear 30 million fewer words, on average, by the age of 4 than children growing up in language-rich families, according to information cited in a news release from the mayor’s office. 

“There is ample research that shows that talking and singing to children at the youngest ages, as their brains are developing quickly, actually makes them smarter,” Hodges said. “Talking=Teaching’ will support parents and caregivers in their roles as first teachers, and in so doing will begin to change the life trajectory for many of our younger residents.”

The mayor’s Cradle to K Cabinet released a series of recommendations to address disparities among the city’s youngest children in May. The Talking=Teaching project is the first initiative of the cabinet.