Foundation commits $4 million to early learning

October 2, 2018

The Greater Watertown Community Health Foundation will invest more than $4 million in TalkReadPlay efforts over the next five years to provide high quality early learning opportunities to families with young children. The foundation’s investment will develop the new Watertown children’s library as a flagship TalkReadPlay center and allocateTalkReadPlay programming resources to family-serving agencies across Dodge and Jefferson counties.

TalkReadPlay is an evidence-based parent education initiative of Every Child Thrives, a collaborative effort supported by the health foundation. TalkReadPlay relies on trusted messengers, such as community health and human service professionals, physicians and early education providers to teach parents the science behind brain development and empower them to create more learning opportunities with their babies and young children. To date, more than 20 Dodge and Jefferson county organizations have adopted the TalkReadPlay model and 300 individuals have been trained to provide families with TalkReadPlay messaging and tools.

“Healthy early child development is a key priority for the GWCHF and we are committed to supporting evidence-based, collaborative efforts so children are healthy, ready for kindergarten and succeeding in school,” said health foundation board Chairwoman Karla Mullen. “We are thrilled to provide funding to help our partners implement TalkReadPlay, which will have positive impact on families.”

The health foundation’s commitment includes a $2.5 million capital grant and $800,000 in programming and technical assistance resources for the Watertown Public Library. The foundation has committed an additional $800,000 in TalkReadPlay resources to support public libraries and family-serving agencies throughout the rest of Dodge and Jefferson counties.

Watertown Public Library, Watertown Family Center, Watertown Unified School District, Watertown Public Health and other Every Child Thrives members will serve as collaborating partners to develop the new library center as a best-practice model supporting families and young children.

“Ninety percent of brain development occurs during a child’s earliest years of life. It’s at this time children develop the foundation for all future learning, and parent interaction has the single greatest influence on early brain development,” said Tina Crave, health foundation president and CEO. “Our goal with the TalkReadPlay investments is to give parents and caregivers tools to promote the early learning children need to gain communication, critical thinking and ‘life skills’ to thrive in the 21st century workforce.”

“The TalkReadPlay center will be designed to engage children and families beginning at birth and provide opportunities for adults and children to play and learn together,” Crave said.

Activities at the center will be designed based on child development research, promoting early vocabulary, social development and problem-solving skills through active play and adult-child interaction.

“Science shows that young children learn best through interactive play and movement. The TalkReadPlay center will be a vibrant and fun learning environment, a destination for families throughout the region,” Crave said.

Library Director Peg Checkai said the library board and staff are excited for the opportunities the TalkReadPlay center will provide for children and families.

“Much of a child’s learning and brain development happens long before a child ever starts school,” Checkai said. “Parent-child interaction plays a critical role during this time. Through programming and parent-child activities offered at the TalkReadPlay center, we will support parents and caregivers to become their child’s first teacher.”

Formed out of the 2015 joint venture between Watertown Regional Medical Center and LifePoint Health, the health foundation is a catalyst for positive, lasting and measurable health improvement across the region. The foundation’s mission is to inspire collaboration, mobilize resources and encourage innovation that measurably contributes to the wellbeing of our communities.

The health foundation strategically focuses resources to “move the needle” on priority community health indicators including healthy child development, social and emotional wellbeing, healthy eating and active living. To date, the health foundation has invested more than $3.5 million in health enhancement initiatives across Dodge and Jefferson counties.

Every Child Thrives, a partnership of more than 30 community partner organizations working collectively to improve outcomes for young children, was created in 2017 and is facilitated by the health foundation. To learn more visit www.WatertownHealthFoundation.com. To learn more about TalkReadPlay or to download the early learning app, visit www.TalkReadPlayWI.com.

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