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Johnson County launches Talk, Read, Play, an early childhood education campaign

A number of local government officials in Johnson County joined area organizations to launch a countywide early childhood education campaign today. The effort is known as Talk, Read, Play and follows neuroscience studies about brain development in young children. The initiative encourages parents, caregivers and teachers to talk, read and play with their children every day.

During a news conference today at Johnson County Community College’s Hiersteiner Child Development Center, representatives from United Community Services of Johnson County, The Family Conservancy, Johnson County Government, Johnson County Library, and JCCC Hiersteiner Early Childhood Center talked about the importance of this effort. Representatives from area cities and school districts were on hand.

Week of the Young Child April 10-16

The event took place during the Week of the Young Child™, April 10-16, as proclaimed by Johnson County Government and the following cities: Fairway, Gardner, Prairie Village, Mission, Overland Park, Olathe, Shawnee and Westwood Hills.

Karen Wulfkuhle, executive director or United Community Services of Johnson County highlighted the organization’s efforts to address poverty’s effect on children in Johnson County by supporting initiatives like Talk, Read, Play. Nearly 5,000 of Johnson County’s 38,000 residents living in poverty are children age 5 and younger.

The Family Conservancy, was instrumental in the development of the Talk Read, Play campaign. Dean Olson, president and CEO of the organization, noted that research has found children born into low-income households hear roughly 30 million fewer words by the age of three than their more affluent peers leading to an alarming achievement gap in school and life.

Studies show talking, reading and playing with a child every day is proven to increase that child’s brain development, vocabulary and self-esteem. Vocabulary is a key predictor of a child’s ability to succeed in school, leading to greater high school graduation rates, more skilled and contributing citizens, and reduced reliance on government assistance.

Ed Eilert, Chairman of the Board of County Commissioners and Sean Casserley, Johnson County Librarian, highlighted the county’s strong support of library programs in its 13 branches, which provide parents and others numerous services free of charge to help families with talking, reading and playing with their children every day.

Claire Ehney, manager of the JCCC Hiersteiner Child Development Center, echoed the need for this type of initiaive to help young children, noting the importance of every adult in a child’s life taking an active role in helping them to succeed.

Book Drive and Talk, Read, Play Events

A month-long book drive will be held starting April 11, 2016 at four Johnson County Library branches. The public is asked to donate books for children up to age five at the following branches: Blue Valley, Central Resource, Corinth, and Lackman. The books will then be donated to early childhood centers throughout Johnson County.

The county, area cities and Johnson County Library have events supporting the Talk, Read, Play. Details on those events and the book drive may be found at www.jocogov.org/talkreadplay.

The event was attended by Gardner Mayor Chris Morrow, Mission Mayor Steve Schowengerdt, representatives from several other cities and representatives from the following school districts: Blue Valley, Shawnee Mission, and Spring Hill.