, a joint initiative of the and San Francisco-based , has announced the launch of an initiative to better prepare Oakland’s children for success in school and beyond.
The campaign aims to close the so-called "word gap" — a difference of about 30 million in the number of words that children in high-income families hear from parents and caregivers by their fourth birthday compared to children in low-income families. According to recent research, the fewer words children hear and learn, the more likely they are to experience an achievement gap, which persists through their preschool and kindergarten years and tends to have a lifelong impact on their health and well-being.
The community-wide multimedia campaign, which was developed by the in partnership with , will highlight how simple actions by parents and caregivers — describing objects seen during a bus ride, asking questions, singing songs, reading aloud, telling stories — can significantly improve babies’ brain development and help build their vocabulary. The three-month campaign includes television commercials and radio spots, prompts such as "Let's Talk About the Bus" on billboards and bus shelters around Oakland, and a new clothing line for babies and toddlers produced by clothing retailer that will be distributed by local partners.
The campaign also has received $3.5 million from Bay Area philanthropists Lynne and Marc Benioff to develop a three-year initiative at the . When parents enter the hospital they will see messages in the lobby, waiting rooms, and exam rooms prompting them to talk, read, and sing to their children as a way to build their vocabulary. UCSF Benioff aims to develop the campaign into a model for how other children’s hospitals can address the word gap as a health issue.
"Through programs like 'Reach Out and Read,' many of our doctors and nurses have been talking to their families for years about the importance of reading aloud to their children from an early age to build their cognitive and emotional development," said Dr. Bert Lubin, president and CEO of UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland. "But when we see reports like the one produced by showing that fewer than half of children come to kindergarten in Oakland with the skills needed to succeed, we know there is much more we must do. With this campaign, we’re engaging in an innovative effort to increase the tools and services we provide to parents so they can help their children do better in school and have better health."