Small Talks – Text Me: Turning Everyday Moments into Early Learning Experiences

Small Talks features leaders who share key insights on early childhood education and discuss innovative solutions to early learning issues in Minnesota.

By Kristie Thorson

Small Talks took place at the Wilder Center in St. Paul on Tuesday, October 10, 2017.

Text Me: Turning Everyday Moments into Early Learning Experiences was the topic of the second Small Talks event which took place October 10, 2017, at the Wilder Center in St. Paul. The panel presentation and discussion focused on leveraging the simplicity of text messaging to engage parents and boost a child’s learning.

Ben York, Ph.D., Founder of ParentPowered Public Benefit Corporation, made the trip from California to talk about the research behind Think Small ParentPowered Texts.  This free program is offered to parents of children ages birth to five.

Ben York, Ph.D., Founder of ParentPowered Public Benefit Corporation.

“We sought to develop an approach to complement existing programs by breaking down the complexity of engaged parenting into small steps that are easy to achieve,” York said.

Think Small ParentPowered Texts provide Minnesota parents with three text messages per week.

“On Mondays, we send facts, which include factual information on why the skill of the week is important,” said York.  “On Wednesdays, we send tip messages with recommendations for activities that build on existing family routines, and on Fridays, we send growth messages which reiterate the skill and provide encouragement and follow-up.”

Click below to watch some video highlights from the Small Talks event.

Cisa Keller, Senior Vice President of Early Childhood Quality Development at Think Small was the second of three panelists.

“This was an opportunity for Think Small to try and strengthen families in an innovative way,” said Keller.  “This is a tool that is so simple, so easy, and very, very powerful.”

Panelists: Ben York, Ph.D., Cisa Keller, and Cindy Hillyer.

The final panelist was Cindy Hillyer, Director of Early Childhood Education at Minneapolis Public Schools.  Hillyer and her team helped pilot Think Small ParentPowered Texts by encouraging parents to sign up during the district’s Early Childhood Screening process.

“We have a younger generation of parents and they are used to receiving their information on technology platforms,” said Hillyer. “The texting initiative is well-aligned with what we were already doing at Minneapolis.  It’s aligned with what we’re looking to do in school readiness at the federal and state levels.”

Families who would like to receive Think Small ParentPowered Texts can sign up HERE.

Michelle Walker, Executive Director, Generation Next, moderated the event.

To read panelist bios or view photos from the event, visit HERE.  This Small Talks event was moderated by Michelle Walker, Executive Director of Generation Next, Think Small’s texting program partner.

The next Small Talks event “Don’t Expel Me: Social Emotional Strategies for a More Inclusive Child Care Program” is scheduled from 7:30 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. on January 9, 2018, at the Hallie Q. Brown Community Center in St. Paul. Research indicates children are being expelled from preschool at an alarming rate.  Join us for a discussion on current research, strategies for changing adult behaviors, and the need for a systemic response.  Visit HERE for more information and to register.

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