California’s long-term economic growth and prosperity depends on our ability to prepare future generations of well-educated, high-skilled workers. The key is investing as early as possible in the education of our children.

Significant research shows that the first three years of life are critical to long-term brain development and to successful academic outcomes in K‐12 and beyond. We know the converse is also true. Children who are deprived of a nurturing, enriching environment enter kindergarten unprepared and quickly fall behind their peers. Despite large investments in remedial education and grade repetition in our K‐12 system, children who do not read at grade level by 3rd grade almost never catchup to their peers, and a disproportionately high number ultimately drop out of school. The data for high school drop outs paints a very bleak picture indeed.

The very best public dollar we can invest as a state is in early education. According to Nobel Laureate Economist James Heckman, the returns on early education investments average 8‐1, yet millions of children from primarily low-income families lack access to quality early education opportunities. This is often compounded by a lack of reading opportunities and basic communication at home which stunts language acquisition and vocabulary growth.

The Bay Area Council is leading an ambitious effort to advocate for legislation and policies at the state level that prioritize investment in early childhood education and raise awareness among parents and other caregivers about the importance of regularly reading and engaging with child during their earliest years.

National Partnership: Talk, Read, Sing

The Bay Area Council’s ground-breaking work on early childhood development took a giant step forward on July 23. 2014 with the announcement of a new partnership with national powerhouse Too Small to Fail. Council CEO Jim Wunderman joined Sec. Hillary Clinton to announce the partnership and unveil an innovative campaign — Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing — being rolled out in Oakland that many believe can become a national model for promoting brain development in children beginning at birth. The Bay Area Council developed the campaign, which is targeted to parents and caregivers, with renowned advertising firm Goodby Silverstein & Partners.

The Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing campaign will reach thousands of Oakland families over the next several years and is focused on closing the “word gap“—a difference of about 30 million words that children in high-income families hear from parents and caregivers by their fourth birthday, compared to those in low-income families. Too Small to Fail, a joint initiative of The Clinton Foundation and San Francisco-based The Next Generation, embraced the campaign and saw its potential to reach a national audience.

With a generous grant from Kaiser Permanente, the Bay Area Council began working last year with Goodby Silverstein & Partners to develop the creative for the campaign, which includes television commercials and radio spots, prompts like “Let’s Talk About the Bus” on billboards and bus shelters around Oakland (donated by Clear Channel Outdoor), as well as a new clothing line for babies and toddlers developed by local apparel manufacturer Oaklandish. UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland under the leadership of President and CEO Bert Lubin will serve as a primary channel for reaching parents.

See the Talking commercial.

See the Reading commercial.

See the Singing commercial.

The campaign highlights for parents how simple actions like describing objects seen during a bus ride, singing songs, reading aloud or telling stories can significantly improve babies’ ability to build vocabulary and boost their brain development. The fewer words children hear and learn, the more likely they are to experience an achievement gap, which persists through the preschool and kindergarten years and has a life-long impact on health and well-being. Parents and caregivers can help close the word gap by talking, reading and singing to their children from birth every day.


The announcement and the innovative messaging campaign attracted global media attention, and was followed up on Thursday (July 24) with a “Baby Shower” hosted by Children’s Fairyland in Oakland where hundreds of families received clothing, blankets and books and were joined by performer José-Luis Orozco, storytellers, storybook characters and community leaders. Sec. Clinton expressed her hope that the Oakland campaign can be expanded to cities around the country.

“There’s no bigger difference we can make in children’s lives than stimulating their brains during the first five years,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of Bay Area Council. “We’re thrilled to partner with Too Small to Fail on this exciting campaign. The thousands of children that will benefit from ‘Talking is Teaching: Talk Read Sing’ could be the next Steve Jobs or Henry Kaiser, leading a new generation of invention, progress and prosperity.”