Central Iowa Literacy Program for Babies Expands This Fall



Small talk session in Story County, photo by Ryan RileyAMES, Iowa -- An Iowa State University outreach project aimed at improving literacy among Iowa’s youngest at-risk children is expanding this fall.

About 80 families with babies have graduated from Small Talk Story County since the pilot program began in Ames in fall 2015. The partnership between Iowa State, the Ames Public Library and Raising Readers in Story County helps families to improve the quality and quantity of language in their homes.

“It helped me refocus everything and reprioritize,” said Stephanie Brown of Huxley, who participated in the program with her son, Maccabee. “I’ve been getting down on my youngest son’s level a lot more than I used to. I’ve been waiting for him to respond so it’s not just me talking at him. He understands that it’s an interactive relationship and not just me being in charge.”

This month, Small Talk will expand to Boone and Marshalltown. It’s another step toward the goal of the early childhood literacy program being offered statewide. Conversations about the program are underway in Sioux City and Muscatine. People from other states have also called, inquiring about Iowa’s program.

“Parenting is really hard and you actually don’t get a lot of positive feedback or metrics on how you’re doing as a parent,” said Constance Beecher, an assistant professor in the School of Education and state specialist in family literacy with Human Sciences Extension and Outreach. “What we find is that the parents really want more information. We’re offering them information about their parenting practices, and they’re sad when it’s over.”


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Photo caption: Cynthia Marten (center) is among the parent educators for Small Talk, an outreach project aimed at improving early childhood literacy. The program is expanding from Ames to Boone and Marshalltown. Photo by Ryan Riley.