Goodby, Silverstein & Partners Teach Oakland Children To Sing, Talk, Read

Talking, reading and singing in daily routines builds children’s vocabularies — and a large vocabulary is a key predictor of later reading success. Yet, fewer than half of parents and caregivers in Oakland, CA report reading to their children every day, and even fewer report talking about their day and singing to their children.

Now, Goodby Silverstein & Partners (GS&P) and non-profit Bay Area Council are introducing the “Talking Is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing” initiative to highlight how simple actions done every day from birth — such as describing objects seen during a bus ride, singing songs, reading aloud or telling stories — can significantly improve babies’ ability to build vocabulary and can boost their brain development.

“What makes this campaign different is that it’s not just another brochure,” said Jim Wunderman, CEO of the Bay Area Council. “We are bringing learning opportunities to Oakland by giving parents actual tools—a onesie for the baby, a blanket, a bath towel—that will spark conversation.”

The program features a clothing line, designed by GS&P, that will be given away free of charge to new parents. The onesies, blankets and other materials are being distributed at more than 15 locations: Oakland hospitals, pediatric clinics, family playgroups, childcare programs and First 5 Alameda County. The clothing and blankets are all being produced by local clothing retailer Oaklandish.

The campaign is supported with billboards and bus-shelter ads with prompts like “Let’s talk about the bus” that remind parents how everyday activities are an opportunity to help their child develop. In addition, there are television and radio public service announcements (PSA) running in the Bay Area and a website, talkreadsing.org.

The event kicked off with a citywide “baby shower” at Children’s Fairyland in Oakland on July 24. Hundreds of Oakland families received clothing, blankets and books and were joined by performer José-Luis Orozco, storytellers, storybook characters and community leaders.

GS&P initially became involved with the effort after working with the Bay Area Council on a bid to bring Super Bowl 50 to San Francisco. The agency was tasked with developing a campaign that went beyond the typical PSA. "We wondered if we could turn the world into a learning opportunity," says John-James Richardson, one of GS&P strategists on the project. Adds GS&P creative director Nick Klinkert: “We wanted the campaign to be colorful, positive and intuitive and we wanted every aspect to help start a conversation with your child, from the clothing line to the outdoor to the TV.”

Other corporate partners joining GS&P include UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland and Kaiser Permanente. Marc Benioff, founder and CEO of Salesforce.com, has donated $3.5 million to develop the campaign in the Oakland community.

In fact, doing good does not mean forgoing compensation. "It should be noted, that when people say "pro-bono" most people think of work that we do for free," says GS&P director of communication John Kovacevich. "Bay Area Council and their philanthropic partners did come to us with a budget and they did pay us for the time and work. This is going to sound like corny-PR spin, but they really were a dream to work with—incredibly supportive and once we all latched on to the idea, they went into overdrive to find ways to support it financially and bring it to life."

Looking forward, this program is expected to spread nationally. Current sponsors Too Small to Fail, a joint initiative of Next Generation and the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, are looking to replicate the model for a national initiative. "Turns out that a number of different groups were working on the same brief, independently," says Kovacevich. "When Too Small to Fail (the organization sponsored by the Clinton Foundation) saw what we were doing with the Bay Area Council, they thought that we had addressed the challenge in a new, innovative way and asked how they could help. It really was the Bay Area Council's campaign and decision to partner with the other organizations, but we're glad they did. Anything that gets the word out (and brings the clothes to) to a larger population, the better."
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