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San Francisco General Hospital to Expand the Clinton Foundation’s Too Small to Fail initiative, “Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing,” Following New Research Showing Early Literacy Program’s Effectiveness

Evidence-based early learning resources that promote reading and language development skills to be provided to every family that gives birth in labor and delivery unit

SAN FRANCISCO— Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital announced today that it will expand the Clinton Foundation’s Too Small to Fail initiative’s “Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing” early literacy campaign at the hospital. Clinton Foundation Vice Chair Chelsea Clinton joined hospital leaders and staff to announce the expansion of the campaign, which will ensure every family (approximately 1200/year) who gives birth at the hospital will receive language-friendly Talking is Teaching materials to boost quality interactions between parents and infants.

“We are thrilled to expand a program that provides each and every child born at the hospital the opportunity to grow and succeed. The findings from the recent study vindicate our work and reinforce the critical role pediatricians play as key partners in promoting early child development skills and laying a strong foundation for families, “said Dr. Neeti Doshi, a pediatrician in the UCSF Department of Pediatrics at the Children's Health Center at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital.

The announcement comes following the release of a new study which shows the campaign helped boost key early literacy skills in young children who receive primary care at the hospital’s outpatient pediatric clinic. The study, which was conducted by the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies at the University of California, San Francisco, revealed that when pediatricians relayed information and tools with parents and caregivers about the vital role they play in their children’s early brain and language development, four out of five – 80 percent – reported talking, reading, and singing more often with their children.

“We know that the path to lifelong learning and success starts early. Research clearly shows that parents and caregivers have an incredible opportunity to impact their young children’s early brain development starting at birth,” said Patti Miller, CEO of Too Small to Fail. “These new findings will reinforce our commitment to working with community partners to ensure parents have the resources to support their young children’s success.”

Key Study Findings:

In August 2016, the Too Small to Fail initiative partnered with Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, First 5 San Francisco, and the San Francisco Public Library system on a local “Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing” campaign in San Francisco. Talking is Teaching aims to motivate all parents and caregivers to engage in meaningful interactions with their young children through talking, reading, and singing together from birth.

In the first year of the partnership, Talking is Teaching materials were provided to families of young children who receive primary care at the Children’s Health Center, the hospital’s pediatric clinic, directly from the pediatrician. These materials encouraged pediatricians and nurse practitioners to speak with families during their child’s well-baby visit about the importance of quality early engagement with their children.

Before the intervention at the Children’s Health Center, parents reported that they talked (87 percent) and sang (81 percent) on a regular basis but were less likely to read with their child daily (47 percent). Immediately after the visit, 28 percent of English-speaking parents reported learning something new from their doctor. More than twice as many Spanish-speaking parents reported learning something new from their pediatrician.  Among parents who planned to do something new or different after the intervention, parents reported that they were going to read more often with their child (62 percent), followed by singing (38 percent) and talking (37 percent). The study also showed that of all the materials, nearly 90 percent of parents used the children’s book, more than any other resource in the toolkit. This all taken together suggests that parents, especially Spanish-speaking ones, are more likely to increase an infrequent activity – reading – which they initially reported doing less often.

This year, as part of the campaign expansion to the hospital’s labor and delivery unit, key staff including postpartum nurses, midwives, and physicians will be trained to share information and tools with parents and caregivers about the critical role they play in their children’s early brain and language development beginning from birth.  Starting in October 2018, each newborn and family discharged from the hospital will receive evidence-based materials—including books, tip sheets, and tote bags with prompts that encourage parents to engage in quality interactions from birth. The expansion is funded through the San Francisco General Hospital Foundation’s Hearts Grant program, which funds innovative hospital projects and initiatives at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital.

“This grant from the San Francisco General Hospital Foundation has allowed us to expand this transformative program, which is so beneficial to our patients and their families.” said Dr. Susan Ehrlich, CEO of Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital. “It will encourage further improvement and innovation in pediatric care.”

Research shows that during the first years of life, a child’s brain forms one million new neural connections every second and absorbs information like a sponge. This is why simple, everyday interactions with young children – like describing objects seen during a walk or bus ride, singing songs, or telling stories – can build their vocabularies, prepare them for school, and lay a strong foundation for their social-emotional development, health, and lifelong learning.

To view the full evaluation please visit: talkingisteaching.org.


Clinton Foundation Press Office
[email protected]

Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital Press Office
Brent Andrew
[email protected]

About Too Small to Fail

Too Small to Fail, an early childhood initiative of the Clinton Foundation, promotes early brain and language development by supporting parents and caregivers with tools to talk, read, and sing with their young children from birth. Today, almost 60 percent of children in the United States start kindergarten unprepared, lagging behind their peers in critical language and reading skills. Through partnerships with pediatricians, hospitals, faith-based leaders, community-based organizations, businesses, entertainment industry leaders, and others, Too Small to Fail is meeting parents where they are to help them prepare their children for success in school and beyond. Whether at the pediatrician's office or the playground, Too Small to Fail aims to make small moments big by creating opportunities for meaningful interactions anytime, anywhere. 

Learn more at www.toosmall.org. Find resources for parents and caregivers at www.talkingisteaching.org or on Facebook (www.facebook.com/2smalltofail), Twitter (@2SmalltoFail), and Instagram (www.instagram.com/2smalltofail).

About the Clinton Foundation

Building on a lifetime of public service, President Clinton established the Clinton Foundation on the simple belief that everyone deserves a chance to succeed, everyone has a responsibility to act, and we all do better when we work together. For nearly two decades, those values have energized the work of the Foundation in overcoming complex challenges and improving the lives of people across the United States and around the world. 

As an operating foundation, we work on issues directly or with strategic partners from the business, government, and nonprofit sectors to create economic opportunity, improve public health, and inspire civic engagement and service. Our programs are designed to make a real difference today while serving as proven models for tomorrow. The goal of every effort is to use available resources to get better results faster – at the lowest possible cost.

We firmly believe that when diverse groups of people bring resources together in the spirit of true cooperation, transformative ideas will emerge to drive life-changing action.

About the Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center

Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, part of the San Francisco Health Network, is an essential component of San Francisco’s health care system serving over 108,000 patients each year and providing 20 percent of the city’s inpatient care. Recognized as one of the nation’s top hospitals, it serves the community with a full complement of inpatient, outpatient, emergency, diagnostic and psychiatric services for adults and children 24-hours a day. Zuckerberg San Francisco General is San Francisco’s safety net hospital, the city’s only trauma center and a top academic medical center, with medical staff from the faculty of internationally-renowned UCSF. More information is available at: http://www.zuckerbergsanfranciscogeneral.org/.