Children who share stories, read, sing songs or simply talk with their parents or caregivers every day during their earliest years are more likely to succeed later in school and live happy, healthy lives. That is because when a child hears language frequently, strong brain connections are built; these connections help children learn, socialize, and feel safe, loved and confident.
This is the message of Bozeman nonprofit Hopa Mountain’s Together campaign, which seeks to encourage parents, grandparents and other caregivers to spend more time interacting with their children in meaningful ways. Hopa Mountain has teamed up with communities in Montana to spread this message through public service announcements and through a series of posters that can be downloaded at www.hopamountain.org.
Two Montana families have learned first-hand the value of having positive conversations and sharing books together at home. “Reading with my child is a wonderful educational opportunity,” said Browning, Montana, mom April Jiminez. “But more importantly, it is our chance to snuggle, laugh and share a reading adventure . . . to build a lifelong bond.” Jiminez, 42, is mother to three—ages two, five, and twelve—two of whom are foster children. She is passionate about learning both in the home as a mom, and in her work as a second-grade teacher, a Sunday school teacher and a volunteer in her community.
“I started reading to all four of my children as soon as they were born,” explained Tiffany, of Butte, Montana. “Apparently it was the best thing since my first grader is now reading at a third grade level, and the other three are following close behind. Early childhood programs such as Hopa Mountain’s StoryMakers have really helped me to see the benefits in working with my children long before they start school.”
Each year, Hopa Mountain’s StoryMakers program partners with community teams of rural and tribal citizen leaders to share more than 14,000 sturdy, colorful board books and early learning resource materials with Montana families. “By getting books in the hands of caregivers and children, we want to encourage rich early learning experiences at home that can make a big difference in the development of a young child,” explained Bonnie Sachatello-Sawyer, executive director of Hopa Mountain. “Reading is just one kind of vital interaction—the key is positive language development through storytelling, singing or just talking together.”
A vast body of research has proven the many benefits of exposure to language—through talking, singing, and reading—on the developing brains of babies and children. Story time is also an important bonding time between parents and children. To learn more about Hopa Mountain’s Together campaign, download campaign posters and other materials, read about positive parenting tips, and watch a 5-minute video about reading with your child, visit www.hopamountain.org. For information about Hopa Mountain’s StoryMakers program, please call 406-586-2455. These programs are made possible with generous support from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, Women’s Opportunity and Resource Development (WORD) through the Montana Parent Information and Resource Center funded by the U.S. Department of Education, the Steele-Reese Foundation, the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation, the O.P. and W.E. Edwards Foundation, the Montana Office of Public Instruction, the Walter L. and Lucille Braun Family Charitable Gift Fund, and Hopa Mountain members.