Talking Matters initiative partners up with Marie Clay Research Centre

01 February 2017

By the time a child is three, 80% of their brain is formed. Studies show that talking plays a key role in both building brain pathways and the attachment between child and parent. How parents and caregivers communicate with their child in those first three years sets up the potential for the child’s success later in life.

Talking Matters is a ground-breaking programme across all community sectors focusing on children’s oral language development in the early years (0-3) to help ensure that Kiwi kids get the best start in life.

Led by Community Education Trust (COMET) Auckland, Talking Matters brings together experts from early learning centres, schools, teacher educators, researchers and health and social service organisations from across the Auckland region to achieve the most educational impact.

Connecting as a strategic partner

The Marie Clay Research Centre based in the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Education and Social Work is a strategic partner of Talking Matters, alongside Counties Manukau District Health Board Ko Awatea.

Professor Janet Gaffney, Director of the Marie Clay Research Centre and a member of the Talking Matters Working Group says:

“Talking Matters aligns with the aims of the Marie Clay Research Centre in promoting research and practice in early language/s and literacy learning. Children thrive when adults enter their world by closely observing and listening—seeing the world from this child's point of view—and responding in a way that this child understands that you ‘get’ him.

“Children's talk is one window to their evolving thinking and learning. Talking with and by children matters. Ko te reo o te tamaiti te tāonga o tōna ao. The language of the child is the treasure of her/his world.”

Dr Jannie van Hees, oral language researcher and a project director with Auckland Uniservices Ltd – the University of Auckland’s commercial arm – is also a member of the Talking Matters Working Group. She adds, “Talking with and to a child truly matters. What more important role is there than gifting every child the 'magic' of talk so they can become powerful knowers, thinkers and communicators? Each child depends on us – the 'others' in their lives, to travel rich language pathways with them.”

Support from NEXT Foundation

In November last year, NEXT Foundation announced its investment in Talking Matters and will seed fund the Talking Matters initiative as it moves into its next phase.

NEXT Foundation Chairman Chris Liddell said in a media interview that the programme will be piloted in South Auckland where they have started meeting with 16 community groups last year.

“In most lower socio-economic groups, what happens is kids who start ahead stay ahead; kids who start behind stay behind. It’s trying to pick some of the communities, which don’t necessarily emphasise teaching, and getting dads involved (not just the mums) and to see it as part of their role in the family in the first three years to talk and communicate to their kids. If we can really emphasise that and get more people involved, that can have a huge difference.

“Our hope is if we can make progress in an area like South Auckland then we can scale it nationally afterwards.”