PATERSON, NJ – As hard as Paterson Public Schools officials have been working on closing the technology gap, a feat seemingly accomplished this past weekend through the delivery of 9,600 Chrombooks, efforts have also been ongoing to close the word gap.
At a press conference Wednesday Superintendent of Schools Eileen Shafer and representatives of the Paterson Education Fund and Paterson Reads, including Paterson First Lady Farhanna Balgahoom Sayegh, announced the launch of “Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing.” The campaign aims to give parents and caregivers the tools to talk, read, and sing more with their young children from birth, increasing meaningful interactions that are critical to healthy brain and language development.
“We’re not just giving away free bags of books. We’re providing to parents the tools to begin a child’s success in school,” Shafer at the press event held outside the district’s Full Service Community Center. “The time a parent spends reading and talking with a child is the very bedrock of that child’s future academic success.”
Shafer would go on to say that reading, talking, and even signing to a child helps grow their vocabulary from an early age, an asset, Rosie Grant, Executive Director of the Paterson Education Fund (PEF) explained typically lags in urban centers where students enter school with an average of 400 words, compared to over a one million in suburban communities.
“Today, almost 60 percent of children in the United States start kindergarten unprepared, lagging behind their peers in critical language and reading skills,” Grant said. “’Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing’ will motivate and support parents and caregivers to talk, read, and sing more with their young children.”
Through the program, Grant said, 500 parents who received the Talk, Read, Sing tote bags with books will also be connected with “Trusted Messengers” through online Zoom meetings who will help families make the most out of the new resources.
The Trusted Messengers are individuals who already had close relationships with Paterson families. They were recruited through partnering organizations including the district’s Early Childhood and Family and Community Engagement Departments, CUMAC/ECHO, Oasis–A Haven for Women and Children, New Destiny Family Success Center, Partnership for Maternal and Child Health, Passaic County Coalition for Young Children, The Paterson Alliance.
Showing love for a microphone similar to his father’s, and more importantly illustrating the importance of interacting with young children through dialogue, was Ayden Sayegh. “How are you doing today,” his mother asked him, initiating a back and forth conversation with young Ayden’s responses being those of an infant, yet firm.
“He doesn’t have the words to articulate,” Balgahoom Sayegh said of the two-year-old, “yet he is taking it all in.”