LSX Project: “Talk With Me!”

Blog Post
June 10, 2020

LSX is an interdisciplinary two-year fellowship focused on child development (ages 0-5) designed to break through traditional silos that separate learning scientists from those in journalism, education policy, and entertainment. Over two years, fellows have been collaborating on projects that elevate the insights of the learning sciences for new audiences. The intent is to learn how to communicate with the public, write op-eds in teams, and advance a project related to early childhood development that would be strengthened with the infusion of ideas from talented people in other sectors. The fellowship is administered by New America, the International Congress of Infant Studies, and the Jacobs Foundation. This post was originally published in the Jacobs Foundation newsletter. To learn more about our 2018-2020 fellows' projects, please join us at the LSX Summit on August 26th.

Can you have a conversation with a baby? Parents in the UK may soon find “conversation starters” on baby products to promote learning-enhancing conversations with kids. The second group of Learning Sciences Exchange Fellows presents here their collaborative project.

Research confirms that conversations between parents and children foster children’s brain processing, language and cognitive development. Our group’s aim is to promote high- quality conversational turn-taking among caregivers and young children so that all children have opportunities to thrive and build strong foundations for success at school and beyond. We’ve started by developing a Public Service Announcement. Research shows that parents who know more about child development are more likely to interact with their children in ways that promote learning, including engaging their children in frequent back-and-forth conversations. Further, our complimentary “conversation starter” messages printed on cards and baby products will help provide parents with specific ways to engage their babies in brain-building conversations.

The team behind “Talk With Me” (from left to right): Sacha Kyle, Melissa Hogenboom, Elizabeth Shuey, Meredith Rowe

Early childhood is an area of increasing policy interest, with governments responding to the research demonstrating the importance of this period. Families also are increasing their expectations for government attention to and investment in young children. Our Public Service Announcement and conversation-starter messages will foster public awareness of what high quality early childhood interactions look like. By targeting the public in the United Kingdom, we are building on existing government interest in fostering early childhood development. Strategies like ours can help to build strong public will for early childhood policies, help families identify and advocate for high-quality early childhood programs and complement existing public investments. Our conversation-starter messages also provide a concrete way for companies to engage in supporting families and children, creating opportunities for public-private partnerships moving forward.

Simple, short and engaging

In order to influence policy makers and bring awareness of the science behind the importance of conversational turn-taking, our team also sought to use storytelling techniques from journalism and entertainment to reach the wider public. In order to make sure the idea hits home, literally and physically, we believe a simple, short and engaging message would be key. Therefore we kept it simple by focusing on the core messages journalists use, the what (turn-taking), why (brain development), who (children and caregivers) when (from birth) and where (anywhere).

We hope this simple storytelling technique will effectively not only spread our core message quickly and engagingly, but inspire and empower change.

“Talk With Me” on the TV

As part of our multifaceted campaign our short animated “Talk With Me” Public Service Announcement will be shared via selected media/television content output. We chose this form of engagement to have the biggest impact and reach a wide range of families and caregivers. As a team we have created an original script, narrated from the point of view of the child. Artistically, we have chosen to go with a high quality visual style and aesthetic, with animated graphics and music that would be appealing to both adults and children – working with the animators at Pomona Pictures (Pierangelo Pirak) with original music composition by award winning composer Giles Lamb. This visual brand and design aesthetic will also continue across the conversation starter messages for consistency and appeal, and to further help promote conversations between caregivers and young children.

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