What We’re Reading

Jennifer Randles, Associate Professor of Sociology at California State University, Fresno, recently published research on a challenge faced by a large and growing share of families across the nation: diaper need, or the inability to afford enough diapers without foregoing other essentials. Randles’ research, focused specifically on mothers facing diaper need, reveals that they adopt a variety of innovative strategies in order to provide their children with this basic necessity. As she described in a summary of the work:

The women I interviewed did three types of what I call diaper work, the physical, emotional, and cognitive labor involved in managing diaper need and related anxiety and stigma. Mothers carefully tracked limited diaper supplies, asked others they knew for diapers or diaper money, and went without their own basic needs to afford diapers.

In discussing the implications of her research, Randles offers an important conclusion: “Studying mothers’ experiences of diaper need and the diaper work they do to manage it … reveals how intersecting race, class, and gender inequalities intensify certain aspects of parenting and why we need to revise existing theories of parental labor to account for that.”

What a critically important reminder for those of us who work with and for parents. Surely, this is true of all kinds of parental labor—from providing diapers to creating a rich early language environment and promoting school readiness.

Read ‘”Willing to Do Anything for My Kids’: Inventive Mothering, Diapers, and the Inequalities of Carework” in American Sociological Review or Randles’ summary in The Society Pages.

We’re Hiring!

A diverse, interdisciplinary, and passionate team fuels the TMW Center’s ongoing progress toward our vision of a future where all children start formal schooling ready to learn and thrive. Currently, we’re looking for passionate individuals to fill several integral roles on our team. We are seeking:

  • A Managing Director of Research & Innovation to oversee strategic development and management of the TMW Center’s suite of tools, technologies, and programs.
  • A Director of Partnerships to develop a strategic vision for implementation of the TMW Center’s community-based, pediatric sector-based, and knowledge-based delivery models and to oversee the team that provides training, technical assistance, and strategic guidance to partners implementing TMW programs and tools.
  • A Data Science Analyst to further develop the TMW Center’s data system and data organization processes and protocols to ensure consistency and quality, prepare for a large volume of anticipated incoming data, and produce quality, analyzable data sets.

We also regularly have opportunities available for students, post-docs and temporary staff. More information about all of our open positions is available at https://tmwcenter.uchicago.edu/tmwcenter/careers/.

3Ts-Let’s Talk Dads! Continues in Phoenix

Just as our 3Ts-Let’s Talk program continues to expand, so too does 3Ts-Let’s Talk Dads. Let’s Talk Dads is a four-session, facilitator-led program implemented with groups of—as the name suggests—dads. Like 3Ts-Let’s Talk, this program focuses on the critical role that talk and interaction play in a child’s foundational brain development and use the 3Ts to help parents create enriching language environments.

Let’s Talk Dads is the result of our ongoing partnership with Phoenix-based non-profit Southwest Human Development and the Steve Nash Foundation. This month, we launched a fourth (virtual) wave of the program with Phoenix area dads, bringing the total number of fathers who have participated to nearly 100.

Speaking of Steve Nash and the Steve Nash Foundation, the Brooklyn Nets coach recently shared a message about the important role parents play in promoting healthy early childhood development—and a TMW Center video about our work with the Foundation—with his 2.6 million followers on Twitter. We are grateful for the many ways Nash and his organization are helping to raise awareness and empower parents.

3Ts-Let’s Talk! Launches Soon in Dallas

We are thrilled to continue our pilot of 3TsLet’s Talk, a facilitator-led group program designed to empower parents and caregivers with knowledge and skills to develop their children’s intellectual and educational potential, in Dallas, Texas. Thanks to our partner ChildCareGroup, which is implementing and facilitating the program locally, 10 families from the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas’s First Five child care centers will have the opportunity to participate. Initially scheduled to begin last week, the program’s start date was pushed back due to the situation in Texas; it will begin once all registered families and facilitators have their power restored and have secure access to essentials including potable water. As ChildCareGroup has continued to support families through this tragedy, we have been reminded of how fortunate we are to work with such committed partners. We are truly grateful to them.

Like all TMW Center programs and interventions, 3Ts Let’s Talk teaches parents and caregivers about the critical role their talk and interaction play in their children’s foundational brain development. And like all TMW Center programs and interventions, it utilizes the 3Ts, simple science-based strategies to help parents create an enriching environment for their children. The 3Ts remind parents to Tune In to what your child is focused on; Talk More using a wide variety of words to build your child’s vocabulary; and Take Turns to engage your child in conversation and foster curiosity and knowledge.

Each 3Ts-Let’s Talk (virtual) group session is dedicated to a specific early childhood development topic and includes guided practice and goal setting to help families integrate the 3Ts into their everyday lives. Each family also receives one-on-one coaching with a trained facilitator between the weekly sessions.

We are grateful to PNC Grow Up Great for supporting the pilot of 3Ts-Let’s Talk in Dallas and other communities across the country.

What We’re Reading

In a new commentary piece published by JAMA Pediatrics, Perri Klass and Dipesh Navsaria discuss a powerful tool that physicians can and should use to support positive parenting and children’s healthy mental, emotional, and behavioral development: encouraging literacy and shared reading. Drawing on the scientific literature and the success of Reach Out and Read, they write:

To promote reading aloud to young children, clinicians should model strategies in the examination room for dialogue building on the words and pictures in a book, encourage regular routines with language and stories, and support the relationships essential for early childhood brain development, from language and early literacy skills to socioemotional development and behavior. Framing reading aloud and book sharing as a way parents show love to their children speaks to the science of reading aloud to children and to the emotional and relational benefits that scaffold parent identity and self-efficacy.

Read their analysis in full here.

Special Journal Issue Built Around TMW Center Work

This month, the Journal of Behavioural Public Policy (BPP), an esteemed interdisciplinary and international journal dedicated to the study of human behavior, published a special issue titled “Field Experiments and Public Policy.”

As the journal’s editors note in their introduction: “The proposal for this special issue was sent to us by Professor John List a few years ago. List has probably done more than anyone else to advance the methods and practice of field experiments, and he and his colleagues Omar Al-Ubaydli, Min Sok Lee, Claire L. Mackevicius and Dana Suskind contribute the lead article to this special issue.”

That article, written by TMW Center Co-Directors List and Suskind and colleagues is titled “How can experiments play a greater role in public policy? Twelve proposals from an economic model of scaling,” and offers a series of practical takeaways from our center’s ongoing work on the science of scaling.

We believe firmly that the science of scaling represents the next frontier in evidence-based policy making. Time and time again, we see interventions that deliver promising results in research settings fail to deliver the same positive effects when scaled up to a broader population. Understanding why is the critical question at the heart of the science of scaling, and one with enormous consequences for policy in early childhood and beyond.

This special issue of BPP, which includes eight additional papers that respond to the lead article, is an exciting step in ensuring that the broader research and policy communities recognize the critical importance of scaling as well.

TMW Center at ASSA 2021

On January 5, TMW Center Research Associate Julie Pernaudet presented at ASSA, the annual event that brings together more than 13,000 of the best minds in economics to celebrate new achievements in economic research. Participating in a session on field experiments in early childhood education and care, Pernaudet shared findings from “It All Starts with Beliefs: Addressing the Roots of Educational Inequities by Changing Parental Beliefs,” a paper she co-authored with her TMW Center colleagues John List and Dana Suskind. The TMW Center was honored to be featured alongside other innovative researchers who are using field experiments to advance our understanding of how to best serve families and achieve impact in early childhood.

How the Gig Economy Puts Children’s Development at Risk and What We Can Do About It

In a new guest column published by the Hechinger Report, TMW Center co-director Dana Suskind explains how the hallmarks of the gig economy—unpredictable schedules and pay and limited access to benefits like health care and parental leave—can threaten the early brain development of workers’ children.

The long-term effects of COVID-19 on this sector of the economy are not yet known, but one thing is clear: As we emerge from the current economic crisis, we must fundamentally rethink the American social safety net, which was built in the mid 20th century, when steady employment and employer-provided benefits were the norm.

But what might a social safety net for the era of gig work look like? Dr. Suskind uses the science of foundational brain development to identify three critical components of a new system that protects workers and their children.

Read the column here.

TMW Center’s 2020 By the Numbers

  • 1 study published in The Journal of Pediatrics
  • 1 new translation of TMW interventions, now available in English, Spanish, and Haitian Creole
  • 4 states home to sites that implement TMW programs (and ≥2 more coming in 2021!)
  • 4 thought-provoking op-eds and guest columns published by TMW Center leadership
  • 8 leading scholars hosted as Visitors during the inaugural year of the Griffin Applied Economics Incubator, helping to advance the importance of the science of scaling
  • 10 new TMW team members hired
  • 21 chapters edited & submitted for publication in “The Scale-Up Effect In Early Childhood and Public Policy: Why Interventions Lose Impact at Scale and What We Can Do About It”
  • 42 weeks of fully remote work
  • 90+ percent of our research and programming supported by philanthropy
  • 126 parents participated in our facilitator-led group programs, Let’s Talk and Let’s Talk Dads
  • 180+ organizations registered on the 3Ts Partner Portal to access Any Time is 3Ts Time campaign resources
  • 600+ parents in Palm Beach County Florida completed TMW interventions in hospital and clinic settings as part of our first community-wide demonstration project
  • 697+ early childhood education providers enrolled in 3Ts-Early Childhood Educator professional development course
  • 1500+ parents & caregivers visited The3Ts.org, our new digital tool
  • 9070+ followers on social media
  • 61,445+ page views on the TMW Center website
  • Countless parents, educators, and caregivers who inspired us

End of Year Remarks

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Since transitioning to remote work in March, the TMW Center has started each week with a brief virtual team meeting. It’s been a bright spot in a challenging year; a time to connect and see familiar faces, if only on a computer screen. Our Chief Operating Officer Katie Dealy kicks off each meeting by telling us how many weeks we have been working remotely. I was shocked when she announced in our last team meeting before the holidays that we had reached 40 weeks! That’s a long time. And yet—we managed to accomplish so much!

As parents, educators, and caregivers were thrust into impossible circumstances this year, it was clear that they needed support more than ever. So, we prioritized finding new ways to get TMW Center resources out to communities and into the hands of more families and caregivers. We quickly adapted many of our in-person interventions to support virtual implementation and increased efforts to disseminate our free digital resources, which—like all of our interventions—equip parents and caregivers with important information about foundational brain development as well as easy-to-use strategies to optimize that development.

The response was awe-inspiring. Parents and caregivers across the country continued to enthusiastically embrace their power to nurture children’s foundational development in the face of tremendous challenges.

Although those challenges will not disappear at the stroke of midnight on January 1, we know now with certainty that the new year will bring new hope and new progress toward the end of this pandemic. As vaccination doses begin to arrive in communities around the world, I feel tremendous optimism for the year ahead and tremendous gratitude—for those who made this historic public health accomplishment possible and for those who made the TMW Center’s accomplishments possible as well. I hope you have a safe and happy New Year!

Warmest regards,
Dana Suskind
Co-Director, TMW Center for Early Learning + Public Health