Birmingham Talk Expands

Birmingham Talks, a free early childhood program that aims to increase interactive talk with children to foster early brain development, looks to provide services to other Alabama regions next year.
In partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies, The Overton Project, and the City of Birmingham, Birmingham Talks began serving babies and families across Jefferson County this past October. The innovative program integrates a specialized coaching curriculum with progress reports captured by a word pedometer that counts the number of words spoken in a child’s presence. “We are thrilled that every family that was approached in our initial Early Head Start classrooms enrolled in the program. Early participation feedback shows how much the technology component of our services resonates with millennial families. We look forward to exploring partnerships with communities across the state,” said Ruth Ann Moss, Executive Director of Birmingham Talks.
Early childhood preparation and workforce readiness are important issues to Governor Kay Ivey, whose Strong Start, Strong Finish initiative focuses on the foundational importance of a child’s first five years of life. They’re also important issues to Birmingham Mayor Randall L. Woodfin. “Our partnership with Birmingham Talks is based on a shared commitment to ensuring that our city’s youngest citizens are kindergarten, college, and career ready. A thriving community requires a prepared workforce, and that preparation starts at birth,” said Woodfin.
Upon learning about the launch of Birmingham Talks, Alabama’s Department of Early Childhood Education (DECE) was drawn to the model’s potential for state-wide impact. DECE recently received a $33 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Education, some of which will enable Birmingham Talks to expand services in Birmingham and begin services in new areas of the state, operating as “Alabama Talks.” “95% of a child’s brain develops within their first five years,” said Secretary of Early Childhood Education, Jeana Ross. “Alabama Talks supports Alabama’s vision of developing a true birth to five continuum of services that enhances early learning and language acquisition, with the goal of reducing the achievement gap for children entering kindergarten.”
Birmingham Talks is currently operating in both home visiting settings and childcare centers, in partnership with Nurse-Family Partnership of Central Alabama (NFP-CA) and The Jefferson County Committee for Economic Opportunity (JCCEO) respectively. The Birmingham expansion of the program will include the launch of playgroups, spaces where a group of parents or guardians can gather in a communal environment to receive coaching around best interactive talk practices, connect with their children, and learn from one another. A combination of these three service delivery models would be used across the state as Alabama Talks grows.

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