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Equipping Volunteers to Help Parents Talk, Read, and Sing with their Children from Birth

 Patti Miller and Kara Dukakis
By Patti Miller and Kara Dukakis

Almost 60 percent of children start kindergarten unprepared, lagging behind their peers in critical literacy skills. Research shows that simple, back-and-forth interactions with parents and caregivers—like talking, reading, and singing from birth—can help prepare children for success in school and in life.  

That’s why Too Small to Fail is proud to partner with Encore.org’s Generation to Generation campaign, a multi-year effort, to mobilize a million adults 50+ to dedicate their time, talent and experience to help young people thrive, and to unite all generations in creating a better future.  

Today, Too Small To Fail and Generation to Generation are thrilled to release a free comprehensive toolkit filled with fun and easy literacy tips, videos, playlists, and activities that adults can use to engage children in language-rich interactions—at home and in their communities.

The Too Small to Fail Community Volunteer Toolkit is designed for people over 50— whether they are a parent, grandparent, child care provider, or community volunteer—who are eager to support families and help promote young children’s early brain and language development.    

Here are a few highlights of the tips and volunteer opportunities featured in the toolkit:

At Home:

  • When changing a baby’s diaper, count the little one’s fingers and toes or listen to this fun Spotify playlist featuring Martina McBride and sing along!

  • When reading aloud, point to the pictures and use words to describe what you see on the page. Engage children in conversations by asking questions like: “Who is your favorite character?” and “What do you think will happen next? Why do you think he feels so happy (or sad)?

  • During snack or meal time, use the items on your plate to spark conversations and questions. You may ask, “What shapes do you see?” or “How many round things can we count?”

In Your Community:

  • Become a volunteer reader at your local library, or explore volunteer opportunities at literacy organizations through the Gen2Gen website by entering keywords like “reading” or “literacy” along with your zip code.

  • Help distribute books by volunteering at a local school’s book fair.

  • Host a read-aloud event by identifying a local laundromat using findalaundry.org and working with the manager or owner to coordinate logistics.

  • At your place of worship, host or coordinate a family meal or potluck and build in early literacy activities for families. 

Please check out our free toolkit!  Volunteers can find the complete set of ideas, resources, and information in the Too Small to Fail Community Volunteer Toolkit. The toolkit also includes ways volunteers can share their stories and have the chance to receive a free “Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing” tote bag!