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Talking is Teaching!

NC3 Interview with Karen Clark from the Newaygo County Great Start Collaborative.



1. Karen, tell me what Great Start is and what is your role?

I am the coordinator of the Newaygo County Great Start Collaborative (GSC). The Collaborative is made up of a group of community stakeholders interested in improving Newaygo County's early childhood system.


The GSC:

  • Reviews county data

  • Identifies unmet early childhood needs

  • Develops strategic plan for a coordinated early childhood system

  • Promotes public awareness of early childhood programs and services

  • Connects and facilitates communication among participating agencies

Every Great Start Collaborative in Michigan, including here in Newaygo County, work toward the same early childhood outcomes:

  • Children are born healthy.

  • Children are healthy, thriving, and developmentally on track from birth through third grade.

  • Children are developmentally ready to succeed in school at time of school entry.

  • Children are prepared to succeed in fourth grade and beyond by reading proficiently at the end of third grade

The Great Start Collaborative meets bi-monthly (usually the 2nd Friday of the month 12:00 - 2:00 pm) at NCRESA's Educational Service Building (4747 W. 48th St. Fremont, MI).


Each Great Start Collaborative also has a Great Start Parent Coalition (GSPC). Our GSPC is led by Christina Yuhasz, the parent liaison. The GSPC is made up of a diverse group of parents, providers, caregivers.

The GSPC:

  • Serves as a “voice for other parents in the community

  • Educates the community about the importance of early childhood

  • Provides information, education, and resources to parents raising young children

  • Advocates for quality early childhood programs & services

  • Lends support to the Great Start Collaborative

The Great Start Parent Coalition meets monthly (2nd Tuesday of the month 5:30 - 7:30 pm) at NCRESA's Educational Service Building (4747 W. 48th St. Fremont, MI). You can visit our Facebook page (Newaygo County Great Start Parent Coalition) for more information. You can also text "GreatStart" to 31996 for updates regarding GSPC meetings and events.


The GSC and GSPC is funded through the Michigan Department of Education. NCRESA oversees and is the fiduciary of the grant.

2. What is Early Childhood and why should we be paying attention to it?

Early Childhood begins before birth, when a baby's body and brain are being formed, continues through early infancy when key relationships are established and developmental milestones reached, and includes the preschool years and the transition into the early grades of schooling. The early years of a child’s life are very important for later health and development. One of the main reasons is how fast the brain grows starting before birth and continuing into early childhood. Although the brain continues to develop and change into adulthood, a child’s early years are the foundation for his or her future development, providing a strong base for lifelong learning and learning abilities, including cognitive and social development, health and life achievement. See this 2-minute video about Brain Architecture (harvard.edu). Well-established research continues to emphasize the importance of early childhood education as an essential building block of a child’s future success. Even researchers who study socio-economic impacts of early childhood education find that the benefits of quality programs are far reaching – to the economy, workforce, and beyond. Students who have access to early childhood education:

  • Do better in elementary school

  • Graduate high school with better grades

  • Have higher test scores

  • Go on to college or another avenue of education or training

  • Have a stronger social support system as adults

  • Have higher incomes by the time they are in their middle ages

  • Have a lower likelihood of being incarcerated for crimes

Early childhood education is important because of its economic impact on society. James Heckman, Nobel Laureate winner in economics states, "Early childhood education has a triple economic benefit. For the provider it is a social impact business; when done effectively it brings in a stream of revenue while impacting the lifelong learning of children. Additionally, early childhood education supports families’ ability to work and contribute economically. And the largest long-term economic benefit is for the child (the 13% annual return on investment)".

3. Is our community doing a better job in certain areas? Where are we struggling?

According to the 2021 Kids Count Data Book, Newaygo.pdf (mlpp.org) Newaygo County is doing better in the following areas: children attending preschool, teen birth rates, students graduating on time.


Areas where Newaygo County saw a decline in indicators were: 3rd grade proficiency in English Language Arts, 8th grade proficiency in Math, children in investigated families, and children in foster care. Newaygo County also is struggling in the area of childcare. There are not enough childcare slots for families that need them, especially non-tradition hours of care (weekends, 2nd & 3rd shift) and slots for infants.


4. What is Talking is Teaching?

"Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing" is a public awareness and action campaign that helps parents recognize their power to boost their children’s early brain and vocabulary development through simple, everyday actions - like describing things while walking outside, or singing songs together during bath time. Using books, parent videos, text messaging, social media, and information from expert partners, Talking is Teaching empowers parents and caregivers with fun and easy ways to improve their babies' learning.

Talking Is Teaching has a simple message "Talk, Read, Sing". When you talk, read, and sing with your child - even before she can use words - you are building her brain and helping to prepare her for success in school and in life. But it may not always be easy to talk to babies, especially when they can’t talk back. To help, we’ve pulled fun tips and resources grounded in the best science, to help you talk, read, and sing with your child every day.

5. When are the next trainings?

We are planning three training dates in October. All trainings will take place at NCRESA's Educational Service Building (4747 W. 48th St. Fremont, MI). Attendees will receive a tote bag of Talking is Teaching materials and online access to many more.

  • October 19th (1:00 - 2:30 pm) - This training is open to any community partners and staff. Space is limited to 20 people, so please call Karen Clark @ 231-652-3604 or email kclark@ncresa.org to reserve a seat.

  • October 21st (6:00 - 8:00 pm) - This training is open to all childcare providers and caregivers in Newaygo County. Providers will receive 2 hours of continuing educational hours. Attendees must register through MiRegistry.

  • October 22nd (9:00 - 10:30 am) -This training is open to any community partners and staff. Space is limited to 20 people, so please call Karen Clark @ 231-652-3604 or email kclark@ncresa.org to reserve a seat.

  • If you would like to schedule a training for your entire staff, we can come to your place of work. Please call or email Karen Clark to select a date and time.

6. How can I find out more about what is happening in the community and with Great Start?

We put together a bi-monthly events newsletter that includes information about events, groups, or "happenings" that are free or low cost to local families. The newsletter includes information such as library story times, playgroups, parenting classes, and community events. There is a lot happening in Newaygo County and we want to connect families to those resources. If you would like to contribute information to the newsletter or be included on the distribution list, please email kclark@ncresa.org. Please note, we do not include information for individual agency fundraisers.


Again, you can also visit our Facebook page (Newaygo County Great Start Parent Coalition) for more information. You can also text "GreatStart" to 31996 for updates regarding GSPC meetings and events.

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Newaygo County Great Start Collaborative

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