MECOSTA, OSCEOLA COUNTIES — Mecosta County Reads, in collaboration with the Great Start Collaborative, is promoting a new campaign to teach parents in Mecosta and Osceola counties the importance of reading to children at an early age.

The campaign is called “Talking is Teaching,” and focuses on motivating parents to begin talking, reading and singing to their children from birth.

Great Start Collaborative Coordinator Jessica Wimmer said the campaign’s main focus is to make parents aware they are their kids’ first teachers, adding that children’s brains are fully developed by the time they are 3.

“There’s never a wrong time to start, but the sooner the better,” Wimmer said.

Recently receiving a Trusted Adviser Grant for $20,000, the two organizations hope to spread awareness for the campaign by using the funds to:

• Offer “Let’s Talk” parent sessions to help parents understand what the campaign is about;

• Provide training sessions for “trusted messengers,” such as physicians, community leaders, teachers and anyone else who can help spread the word; and

• Train parent ambassadors to talk to others about what they are learning through the campaign.

The campaign is being promoted across the nation, but Wimmer said the decision to bring it to area residents came from a large number of parents contacting her with concerns about the best practices for teaching their children.

“Parents in the area were hearing a lot of mixed messages, and it made them not want to do anything at all,” she said. “And it’s not because they didn’t want to, but because they didn’t want to do anything wrong.”

She said the group looked at various campaigns before selecting one, but ultimately chose “Talking is Teaching,” for its easiness to understand.

Additionally, she said, the organizations took great care in deciding which campaign to bring to the community and even hosted a pilot parent meeting to see how locals responded to the campaign’s ideas.

One parent in attendance, Becky Scherf, said she left the meeting with a clearer understanding of how to work with her two kids.

“It was informative, and very helpful to see a lot of what is being recommended now,” she said. “I like parent support, because I’m homeschooling a 6-year-old.”

As part of the campaign’s goals, Scherf also is a parent ambassador and said she strives to teach other parents in the area about “Talking is Teaching.”

“I became a parent ambassador to share what I learned with other parents, to open their minds,” Scherf said. “I think it’s great, and it’s helped me find ways to get connected with other parents in our community.”

In addition to training community members and parents to spread the word about the campaign, Wimmer also said they hope to reach people in the area by having promotional signs in children’s parks around Mecosta and Osceola County in the near future.

For more information about the campaign or how to get involved, interested individuals may email Wimmer at jwimmer@moisd.org.