The Cox connection to early childhood education has deep roots – our founder, Governor James M. Cox, began his career as a schoolteacher. Scientific research supports the notion that the early years create the foundation for success later in life. Through our investments and support of early childhood education, we’ve been a part of exciting improvements that are changing the lives of children across the nation.
Early Childhood Education
Providing a Balanced (Language) Diet
Cox Campus Helps Teachers Empower Students with Words
Hearing a variety of words at a young age makes a big difference in children’s educational, health and social outcomes. Just how much? Research shows that children from low-income families hear an average of 30 million fewer words than those born to parents with higher incomes. This limits a child’s vocabulary – making them less likely to be reading by third grade.
From there, the negative spiral continues. Children who struggle to read stop enjoying school. They may drop out before graduation. They are far more likely to become locked in a cycle of poverty that becomes difficult to escape.
The James M. Cox Foundation has made significant investments in two Atlanta-based institutions working together to break this cycle – the Atlanta Speech School and Charles R. Drew Charter School. The solution, it turns out, may be as simple as exposing children to a healthy diet of words – and teaching them to use them at an early age.
The Rollins Center for Language & Literacy is the professional development arm of the Atlanta Speech School, one of the most comprehensive centers for language and literacy in the nation. The Center partners with the Cox Pre-K program at Drew Charter School, which serves as a critical learning hub for their research and training of early childhood educators. A $2.5 million commitment from the James M. Cox Foundation was made in 2016 to sustain the program as a model for high-quality Pre-K programming nationwide.
Another outcome of this partnership is the translation of the research and best practices into online courses via the Cox Campus. This universally accessible virtual campus is free for teachers everywhere and offers feedback by highly trained live coaches, as well as a virtual assistant that provides information via e-mail and text. Instructional videos have been captured in diverse sites around Georgia, designed to show teachers how to implement strategies in classrooms that look like their own. Courses are available for infant/toddler caregivers, as well as preschool/Pre-K educators, and courses for teachers of children from kindergarten through third grade are currently under development. A new offering, the Build My Brain module, demystifies the science of brain development for teachers and parents and gives them tools to help children learn from birth onward.
Building on previous support for the initiative, the Cox Foundation announced a $2.8 million commitment to the Atlanta Speech School in 2016 to further enhance e-coaching capabilities of the Cox Campus. The grant helps accomplish the Rollins Center’s ultimate goal – that every early childhood educator in Georgia has the skills to effectively prepare our children to learn to read by the end of third grade. The hope is that the investment will benefit thousands of teachers in Georgia and beyond, as well as countless students everywhere.
Talk With Me Baby Pilot Project
Fostering language nutrition among children doesn’t have to wait for the school classroom. It can and should start the moment a child is born. Another component of the Rollins Center’s work is Talk With Me Baby, a suite of resources for parents and teachers that apply the lessons of language nutrition to encourage talking with newborns. While infants can’t use words to respond to their caregivers, research shows that language enrichment pays off from the earliest days and supports the Georgia Department of Public Health’s strategy to call attention to language nutrition as a public health issue.
In 2016, the Cox Foundation made a $729,000 grant to the Henry W. Grady Health System in Atlanta for a pilot project using the Talk With Me Baby toolkit. Grady’s Women’s Clinics offer prenatal care during more than 24,000 patient visits preparing for the 3,100 babies delivered there each year. With the Foundation’s support, the hospital implemented a train-the-trainer model, teaching nurses using the instructional videos, then encouraging nurses to incorporate Talk With Me Baby into their prenatal education programs.
The curriculum was developed through a partnership between the Georgia Department for Public Health and the Atlanta Speech School (building on the investment in the Cox Campus), the Marcus Autism Center and Emory University’s Schools of Nursing and Medicine.
If Talk With Me Baby proves successful, it could become a national model, encouraging other hospitals to discuss early language intervention with new parents, and helping transform the lives of children and families across the United States.