Don’t Talk With Your Mouth Full—but Do Talk!

Mealtime is a time to talk -- and promote children’s early health & language development

talk
(Image: Courtesy of NBCDI)

CGI America, the U.S.-focused division of the Clinton Global Initiative, addresses significant domestic challenges through what it calls “Commitments to Action.” All Commitments to Action—the defining feature of the organization—are new, specific, and measurable. Many of them, if not most, are carried out through cross-sector partnerships. 

CGI America recently held its annual conference, out of which several exciting big ideas in education have emerged. Once a week, over the next several weeks, BE Smart will explore a big idea that resulted in a CGI Commitment to Action.

Meal Time Is Talk Time: Promoting Children’s Early Health and Language Development is one of CGI America’s education-focused 2016 Commitments to Action, and the first one we’re covering in our series. Too Small to Fail, Gerber, Scholastic, the National Black Child Development Institute, and other partners have committed to promote mealtime as a time for parents to talk and engage with their children.

BE Smart spoke with NBCDI’s President and CEO Tobeka Green to find out more.

BE: Are families not talking around the dinner table?

Green: There needs to be more communication between parents and their children around mealtime. Our data doesn’t indicate that families are not talking, but we need to build on the strengths of the family and support the ongoing dialogue and exchange at the dinner table that’s already happening.

The goals are increased literacy as well as health and wellness. Talking, reading, singing—all contribute to early literacy.

This CGI America Commitment to Action will distribute 100,000 copies of a Scholastic children’s book that focuses on nutrition. So we’ll be adding to the home library as well as promoting literacy and language development.

BE: How are you distributing the books?

Green:  NBCDI has a national affiliate network—our affiliates will be distributing books in the communities we serve. We manage programs at schools, churches, mosques—so primarily through those relationships. We’ll be actively engaging parents and caregivers who are in the NBCDI programs.

BE: What programs are those?

Green: We have three national programs, two of which are centered on health and wellness. One is Good for Me, for preschool-aged children. It promotes physical activity and healthy eating, and teaches a new fruit and vegetable for each letter of the alphabet.

We also have Grow Green Get Fit for kids in grades K-6. It also promotes healthy eating and physical activity, as well as elements of scientific thinking, growing your own food, gardening, etc.

We want to reinforce that the normal routine of eating presents an optimal opportunity for promoting language development and early literacy, and remind parents that mealtime, bedtime, and riding in the car are great opportunities for conversation with their children.

BE: This CGI America Commitment to Action is a cross-sector commitment.

Green: We’re excited about all the partners in this venture, and we’re thrilled to engage with Too Small to Fail, which aims at improving the early language and brain development of children ages 0 to 5. Too Small to Fail embraces our strengths-based approach; we don’t focus on deficits. For example, 79% of black children ages 3 to 5 are read to by family members three or more times a week. We want to build on those kinds of strengths, so it’s really the perfect complement.

Spotify and other outlets will touch other parts of the community.

For more information about NBCDI, visit its website here. For more about CGI America, explore its site here.