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Never too early to talk

Last week we hosted one of our Shared Learning events focusing on language and communication, one of our overarching outcomes, called “The wonder of words”.

‘The wonder of words’ was attended by parents, volunteers, and front line workers from the Better Start Bradford area and beyond, interested in giving children the best start in life. Over 170 people got involved and were privileged to listen to national and local speakers discussing the importance of talk.

Our regular Shared Learning events are part of our Learning Together programme  and cover various topics supporting children’s development from conception to their fourth birthday.

Jean Gross CBE  was the first speaker, who highlighted that it’s never too soon to talk. Talk to your bump, talk to your baby, even if they can’t talk back it might seem odd at first but the more you do it the more you will enjoy it … and so will they. It is important that parents feel confident to speak in their first language as this is the one they will feel really confident to use. Jean said “it’s not what you earn it’s what you do that matters”, this made me realise again just how important we all are and how we all can do something to benefit children in Better Start Bradford.

Information about 5 ingredients to support children learning to talk supported us to think about key messages to use in Bradford. The “facetime your baby” idea really livened up my thinking on differing ways to share messages and the room was buzzing with creativity from the audience.

It’s about listening to your child and talking to them as much as you can. Using the world as a book, creatively describing what’s happening now, yesterday and tomorrow is as special for a child to hear as the exciting stories in fairy tales.

Amy Mortimer, from Reading Matters, talked to us about the importance of sharing books and how reading to your bump and baby, even this early, will support them to be better readers. Did you know that Mums and Dads involvement in reading is the most important determinant of their child’s early language and literacy skills?

It was fantastic to be able to share three of the Better Start Bradford projects, which are now running, and aim to help families support children’s language and communication skills.

Leanne Souster explained how our exciting free book gifting project Better Start Imagine  provides a book a month to every child born in the Better Start Bradford area after 1 January 2016. How exciting is that, waiting for the postman to deliver a new book straight to your home and addressed to your child.

News from Talking Together, our project supporting two-year-olds in communication and language development, was shared by Rebecca Heald. Talking Together provides language assessments followed by extra support in the form of one-to-one sessions at home over a six-week period, encouraging play and conversation.

Diana Bird from Shipley College inspired me to think about how difficult the experience of birth can be when you can’t communicate to the team who are supporting you to have your baby. Diana is delivering our ESOL+ for pregnancy  project, a language course to empower pregnant mums with English needs. It helps them engage with their midwife and be more in control of their pregnancy and labour.

We then divided into workshops and together looked at what we think is most important if we want to improve our children’s language development. We will be sharing these messages throughout our Better Start Bradford community so look out for them appearing in the future. My favourite one from our group was “dummies hide smiles”.

At every Learning Together event our information stalls support attendees to find out more about all of our Better Start Bradford projects and how they and the families they support can get involved. It is exciting to see the number of stalls increase each time as we launch more projects.

I went away feeling a lot clearer in my mind about the importance of language and communication and how professionals and parents can work together to support the development of children’s language. Every one of us is really important in making a difference.

We would love to see you at our future Learning Together events.

Helen Hall

Early Years Specialist, Better Start Bradford

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