Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing Campaigns


Too Small to Fail’s local public awareness and action campaign, “Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing,” launched in the flagship cities of Oakland, CA and Tulsa, OK in 2014. Today, there are 24 official Talking is Teaching communities in cities around the U.S. Through trusted messengers such as librarians, pediatricians and faith leaders; high-quality materials and tools; and messages in community spaces, including bus shelters, playgrounds, and grocery stores, communities across the country are working to boost early brain and language development to prepare their children for kindergarten and beyond. Learn more about our local Talking is Teaching campaigns below.

Oakland, CA 

In Oakland, Too Small to Fail is working with UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland and First 5 Alameda to implement the Talking is Teaching campaign through health centers, home visiting and other places where families spend time. In partnership with BCHO, Too Small to Fail developed a model for how children’s hospitals can address the word gap as a public health issue. At the hospital’s primary care clinic, pediatricians deliver messages about early brain development, early literacy and early math at well-child visits, along with tote bags full of tools for parents to take home. Kaiser Permanente also engaged in a strategy at four medical centers, where pediatricians delivered messages and materials to families. In addition, the campaign is partnering with First 5 Alameda to distribute messages and materials first through pediatricians at community clinics and now through home visitors.  

Tulsa, OK 

In Tulsa, Too Small to Fail is working with the George Kaiser Family Foundation (GKFF) to implement the Talking is Teaching campaign in churches, hospitals, grocery stores, and other places where families spend time. Through strong partnerships with Tulsa pastors and the faith-based community, GKFF is delivering tools and messages to families during literacy events at churches and as part of baby dedication ceremonies. Working with healthcare partners, the campaign is delivering messages and tools to every baby born in Tulsa, as well as through ten Reach Out and Reach pediatric clinics. Campaign signage is posted in all city buses, on billboards, and in two Tulsa grocery store chains to prompt parent-child conversations while families wait for the bus or shop for groceries. 

Brownsville, NY

United for Brownsville, a coalition of dozens of local families and social service providers who are uniting to support the language and social development of infants and toddlers in their community, partnered with Too Small to Fail to implement a Talking is Teaching Community Campaign. The Brownsville Talking is Teaching Campaign mutually-reinforces part of United for Brownsville’s overarching Collective Impact project that aims to create a neighborhood that seamlessly supports local children’s language and social-emotional development by transforming the places and spaces where children live, learn and grow.  

The first phase of the campaign will be to partner with local businesses to install Talking is Teaching signs, posters, and prompts in their space. In January 2020, Talking is Teaching campaigns were successfully launched at two Brownsville grocery stores, leading to positive reception in the community and in local and national media coverage. The long-term vision of the campaign is that the neighborhood itself becomes a landscape for learning. Potential future sites include doctor’s office and clinic waiting rooms, laundromats, nail and hair salons, barber shops, bus stops and train stations, and NYCHA community rooms. 

Chippewa Valley, WI

Too Small to Fail is partnering with United Way of the Greater Chippewa Valley on a campaign to support families in the Eau Claire and Chippewa counties in Western Wisconsin. The Chippewa Valley Talking is Teaching campaign was implemented in collaboration with partners from the Early Literacy Coalition of the Greater Chippewa Valley, including the local School District, library, Children’s Museum, Child Care Resource & Referral, Child Care Quality Rating & Improvement System, Public Health, Family Literacy and Early/Head Start. All partners regularly deliver messages about early literacy and brain development through social media platforms. Some of the partners also directly provide high-quality tools and resources to families. Their State Department of Children and Families also made an active commitment to support local families with young children by donating 4000 books for distribution. The campaign launched with a focus on food sources, such as grocery stores, local rural food sources (convenience stores), farmer’s markets and food pantries, as a place for messaging the role that parents and caregivers play in their child's early literacy and brain development. Learn more here.

Detroit, MI

The Detroit/Wayne County Talking is Teaching Community Campaign has been built to increase everyone’s knowledge about the importance of talking and interacting with young children beginning at birth. Reinforcing messaging, skill building, esteeming adults for what they are already doing and working together to help each of us do more are the critical elements of this Campaign. Our unique one minute, five minute, ten minute and thirty minute messages for families and for the community at large are delivered through Trusted Messengers in Community Spaces such as laundromats, libraries, WIC Offices, places of worship, early childhood education sites, colleges and universities, public housing, health providers, etc. 

Fresno County, CA

In February 2015, Fowler Unified School District and the Fresno County Superintendent launched a Talking is Teaching campaign. Initially, the campaign focused on billboards, bus ads, paid media, and posters. In 2017, the campaign shifted to focus on reaching families directly through trusted messengers in WIC clinics, pediatric clinics, the children's hospital, FQHCs, and Help Me Grow. In each of these spaces, Talking is Teaching posters are displayed and trusted messengers deliver high-quality resources, including a Talking is Teaching tote bag with an age-appropriate book, a prescription for reading, conversational cue cards, and tip sheets that provide ideas for meaningful early literacy activities parents can do every day. In 2019, the campaign expanded the distribution of these high-quality resources through dental clinics and a mobile health clinic van. 

Greater Lehigh Valley, PA

The United Way of Greater Lehigh Valley is leading a Talking is Teaching Community Campaign. The campaign implements two components to encourage meaningful parent-child interaction: Talking is Teaching environmental prompts on billboards, buses, and commercials on their local tv channel, and working with Trusted Messengers to have early literacy tools at their respective places of business to give to families. 

Furthermore, the campaign has two components that focus on spreading the overall Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing message in their community. First, they have established community partnerships to further reach families. Second, they rely on Talk, Read, Sing Ambassadors (volunteers) to manage relationships with Trusted Messengers.  

Lehigh Valley Reads website also features more Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing information and there is a dedicated page for families to turn to find literacy resources and lists of 200+ Trusted Messengers.

Kalamazoo, MI

Kalamazoo County in Michigan is excited to bring new initiatives on early literacy to families. They began their initiative in early 2019 and have since hosted several grocery store Talking is Teaching parties. Working with a local grocery store chain, the Kalamazoo County Great Start Collaborative has partnered with libraries and local parents to host in-store events where kids can participate in a scavenger hunt to get a free book and families receive literacy resources and information. Kalamazoo County efforts are spreading to laundromats, pediatricians and barbershops in 2020.  

Lake Placid, NY

The Adirondack Birth to Three (BT3) Alliance, a program of Adirondack Foundation, includes programs and organizations involved in providing supports and services for young children and families across the Adirondack region of northern New York. BT3’s vision is that all young children are healthy, learning, and thriving in families that are supported by a full complement of services and resources essential for success.  

The Adirondack Talking is Teaching Campaign is focused on partnering with Trusted Messengers to deliver parenting education resources to new families. Initially this will be done through the delivery of our New Parent Kits, tool kits for new parents including the tote bag and messages of Talking is Teaching in addition to other community resources. They will partner with health care professionals, WIC offices, home visiting programs, and birth hospitals to be their trusted messengers delivering these resource bags. Additionally, they plan to further partner with local health care providers and laundromats to convert waiting room space into the Family Read, Play and Learn Spaces. 

Their paid and social media campaign will share the important and accessible messages of Talk, Point, Sing as they promote the importance of social-emotional development in the first 1,000 days of life. 

Little Rock, AR 

Launched in November 2016 and powered by The Arkansas Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, Arkansas's Talking is Teaching campaign is designed to empower the parents and caregivers of children ages 0 to 5 in central and southwest Little Rock to talk, read, sing, and play with their children from birth. The campaign is partnering with the Arkansas Department of Health WIC, Arkansas Home Visiting Network, Little Rock School District, and Ready Rosie to distribute tools and resources to parents and caregivers through preschool teachers, home visitors, and WIC nutritionists. The campaign also includes a media strategy with Talking is Teaching messaging on billboards and buses, as well as a public service announcement developed by the Arkansas Educational Television Network (AETN). 

Livingston County, MI

Launched in the fall of 2018 and supported by The Community Foundation for Livingston County and the Livingston Educational Service Agency (LESA). The campaign is designed to reinforce the overarching goal that every child in Livingston County be proficient in literacy skills and dispositions by age eight. The campaign is built on the belief that in order to reach our goal, efforts needed to support parents and families of young children must begin at birth and involve multiple stakeholders in the community. The first year is focused on partnering with faith-based organizations, local school districts, laundromats, local libraries, and community service organizations. These partnerships will enable them to share Talking Is Teaching messaging, train 200 Trusted Messengers and develop creative ways to work on achieving their targeted goal. The following year, they will expand the campaign to include pediatricians, dentists, local hospitals and more.

Los Angeles, CA 

Too Small to Fail partnered with First 5 LA to bring the national “Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing” campaign to the families of Los Angeles County through First 5 LA’s Welcome Baby program, a family support and parent coaching initiative for new and expecting parents. As part of the Welcome Baby program, new parents and caregivers are receiving high-quality Talking is Teaching materials during home visits — including a CD, Sesame Street Family Resource guide and receiving blanket — with prompts that encourage parents to talk, read, and sing with their children every day starting at birth. These materials supplement the existing programming provided by parent coaches through pregnancy and the first nine months of their baby’s life. Building on its multiyear national partnership with Univision called “Pequeños y Valiosos” (Small and Valuable), Too Small to Fail also worked with Univision’s affiliate television and radio stations in Los Angeles to provide in-depth news and information to its audience on early education and parenting. 

Michigan State

In partnership with Michigan’s Department of Education and Great Start Collaborative, and inspired by Great Start Collaborative of Detroit/Wayne county’ Talking is Teaching campaign, more than 60 communities across Michigan have joined our first ever statewide campaign to promote early brain and language development.  After a statewide trusted messenger training, Michigan communities began implementing their unique campaign strategies using Talking is Teaching messaging, resources and tools to fit the needs of local families. 

Miami, FL 

In June 2016, Too Small to Fail began partnering with the Early Learning Coalition (ELC) of Miami-Dade and Monroe and Univision Miami on a citywide campaign with an emphasis on reaching families of young dual language learners (DLL). Too Small to Fail and the ELC are working with local partners at Jackson Health System clinics, Holtz Children’s Hospital, and Early Head Start to distribute tote bags full of high-quality materials and messages to 8,000 families in Miami. The Miami-Dade County Library System and Help Me Grow are also participating by displaying posters and integrating messages into their existing programming and services. Building on its multi-year national partnership with Univision, Too Small to Fail also worked with Univision’s affiliate television and radio stations in South Florida to provide in-depth news and information to its audience on early education and parenting through television programming and community events.  

In 2019, the Miami Talking is Teaching Campaign expanded through a partnership with Miami-Dade Public School District. The local school district has brought Talking is Teaching environmental prompts, such as posters in early learning classrooms and banners along fence lines, to over 200 schools. Too Small to Fail and Miami-Dade Public School District are also partnering with Publix grocery chain to bring Talking is Teaching signage into local grocery stores across Miami.  

Minneapolis, MN 

Launched in June 2016, the Minneapolis Talking is Teaching campaign was a collaboration between the City of Minneapolis and many trusted partners, including early childhood centers and family serving organizations reaching children and families across the city, such as Reach Out and Read Minnesota, which works with pediatricians and clinics to promote early literacy in clinic settings; Way to Grow, which provides home- and center-based early childhood education as well as family support and education in North Minneapolis; Hennepin County Library, which connects families and children across the city to early literacy activities; and Children's Hospital of Minnesota. Some partners distributed Talking is Teaching materials directly to families. Other partners made active commitments to support young children and parents by donating books, holding employee book drives, hosting parent engagement sessions, and helping to share information through social media. 

New Orleans, LA

In New Orleans, Too Small to Fail is working with Children's Hospital of New Orleans and its parenting center on a city-wide Talking is Teaching campaign. During stage one, doctors and nurses will distribute messages and toolkits at the hospital and affiliated clinics throughout the city during well-child visits and birthing center. There will also be a paid media component through transit ads across the city. In later phases, the campaign will expand to home visiting through Healthy Start, local businesses and government programs.

New York State

Too Small to Fail is partnering with the New York State (NYS) Council on Children & Families to launch a Talking is Teaching state-wide campaign. The campaign goal is to promote early language and brain development with parents and caregivers via a multi-touchpoint and multi-media targeted campaign, and in turn direct these families to local and county services who provide effective systems of care for children. The campaign will utilize both English and Spanish language creative, as well as several other translated creatives including Japanese, Bengali, and Arabic languages to maximize reach and frequency. To date, Talking is Teaching environmental prompts have been secured for placement in transit (subway and bus shelters), laundromats, and hair salons. NYS Council on Children & Families is also exploring incorporating other paid-media strategies, such as digital and television. 

Napa, CA

Launched in June 2016 and led by First 5 Napa County, the Napa Talking is Teaching campaign is partnering with Child Start, Community Resources for Children, Cope Family Center, Napa County Office of Education, Napa Emergency Women’s Services, Napa Valley Community Housing, Napa Valley Early Learning Initiative, Parent University, ParentsCan, Queen of the Valley Medical Center, family resource centers, child care providers, pediatricians and libraries throughout the valley, as well as local businesses and community leaders, to share information with parents and caregivers about the critical role they play in their children’s early brain development. These community partners are distributing free Talking is Teaching materials directly to families, encouraging parents to talk, read and sing with their children. The campaign also aims to transform everyday places where families spend time together — such as supermarkets, playgrounds and laundromats — into language-rich environments, and is exploring opportunities to have posters and creative materials displayed in a variety of locations to encourage families to talk, read and sing while they engage in everyday activities. 

Northern Michigan

The Crawford, Oscoda, Ogemaw, Roscommon and Iosco (C.O.O.R./Iosco) Great Start Collaborative (GSC) and C.O.O.R. Intermediate School District (COOR ISD) launched the Northern Michigan Talking is Teaching Campaign in March 2019. The launch was done in partnership with Munson Grayling Hospital to complement an additional literacy initiative between C.O.O.R. ISD and Munson that will encourage growing literacy skills from birth. 

The Northern Michigan Talking is Teaching Campaign is partnering with trusted messengers in the community, including educators, staff at Munson Grayling Hospital, pediatricians, primary care providers, child care providers, librarians, home visitors, Great Start Readiness Program staff, Head Start staff, and local Health Departments to share information with parents and caregivers about the critical role they play in their child’s early brain development. These community partners are distributing language-rich “Talking is Teaching” materials—including books and clothing with prompts that encourage parents to talk, read, and sing with their children—directly to families. In the 2nd phase of the campaign, laundromats, grocery store chains and playgrounds around the community will display “Talking is Teaching” posters and creative materials that encourage families to talk, read, and sing while they engage in everyday activities. Additionally, a community-wide, multi-media campaign will continue to reinforce these messages in paid media spots and through “Talking is Teaching” branded materials such as billboards, flyers, and bus advertisements.  

Portland, ME

Building upon the success of a Talking is Teaching pilot in 2017, Starting Strong expanded their Talking is Teaching campaign in 2018 and engages trusted messengers from Early Head Start, Portland Public Health, Portland Public Library, Portland’s Family Shelter and several local child care facilities to distribute 500 kits to families of children 0-2. Many of these partners will also display posters and distribute other tools and prompts, such as books, flyers, and bookmarks. 

The campaign also includes a marketing strategy with Talking is Teaching messaging in and on buses, a digital ad campaign, and media outreach. During Week of the Young Child in April 2019, the campaign featured a city bus with Talking is Teaching messaging, a read-in on the bus, and distribution of travel-themed kits and other resources. Learn more here.

Salt Lake County, UT

Launched in November 2015 and led by Salt Lake County with support from its Mayor, the Salt Lake County Talking is Teaching campaign brought together a diverse group of partners to distribute resources and messages to families about the importance of early brain and language development. Partners included the Discovery Gateway Children's Museum, Utah chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Utah State Library Division, Utah Education Network, Utah Health and Human Services and the United Way, Help Me Grow, HeadStart and the library system, among other organizations. Salt Lake County continues to promote the resources on their website. 

San Francisco, CA

In partnership with Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, First 5 San Francisco, and the San Francisco Public Library system, Too Small to Fail launched a Talking is Teaching campaign in August of 2016. Through the primary care clinic at Zuckerberg San Francisco General, nearly 5,000 families, virtually all well-visits of children 0-5, are receiving a tote bag with tools and resources from pediatricians. An additional 4,500 families throughout San Francisco are receiving messages and tools through library programming, including the annual Tricycle Music Fest, early literacy workshops, and bookmobile activity. 

Stanford, CA

In January 2018, Stanford Children's Hospital launched Talking is Teaching Stanford campaign with their Division of General Pediatrics. At the hospital's Federally Qualified Health Centers, pediatricians deliver messages about early brain and language development at well-child visits, along with early literacy toolkits for parents to take home. The campaign is also incorporated in the hospital's newborn nursery, where pediatricians deliver messages and materials to parents. 

Stonybrook, NY

In Long Island, New York, Too Small to Fail is partnering with Stonybrook Hospital, who have begun implementing a Talking is Teaching Community Campaign through environmental prompts such as posters in clinics and PSA videos in waiting rooms. In the future, Stonybrook Hospital would like to incorporate the trusted messenger strategy, as well as distribution of Talking is Teaching resources to parents that visit the hospital.  

Syracuse, NY 

In Syracuse, Talk, Read, Sing Onondaga is a local "Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing" campaign led by The Early Childhood Alliance of Onondaga (ECA). The campaign is partnering with local pediatricians and home visitors to encourage parents to engage with their children in meaningful, language-rich activities like talking, reading and singing every day, and provide helpful tips and resources. The community can also see resources around the city on posters, billboards, bus stops and even online that provide parents with helpful tips for engaging with their child. Learn more here.

Watertown, NY

In 2019, the North Country Library System in Watertown, NY launched a Talking is Teaching campaign at kickoff events held throughout the summer at a variety of sites, such as public libraries, summer festivals, and local parks and beaches - including the NYS Zoo at Thompson Park.  Tote bags containing books for children and parent information were distributed, and environmental prompts were installed at libraries and partner sites. Libraries also created "Let's Talk About" backpacks to loan to families, each containing two board books, a themed activity, and parent tips to encourage family engagement at home. As the campaign progresses, libraries are working with community partners to install environmental prompts and help distribute messages and toolkits to families throughout the four-county region. Partners include local school districts, Head Start, the North Country Prenatal Perinatal Council, and WPBS.  

West Central Minnesota

Too Small to Fail is partnering with five counties in West Central Minnesota to implement a Talking is Teaching Campaign. Each county is working with a variety of community partners including the local school district, library, public health department, Head Start centers, and Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE). Talking is Teaching environmental prompts that encourage parents and caregivers to talk, read, and sing with their children, including 50+ posters and 13 playground panels, are being installed across the rural Minnesota community. Local community partners are also regularly distributing early brain development resources, such as books, CDs, and tip sheets, to families throughout the five-county region. Learn more here.