Health Literacy: Building Healthy Bodies & Minds Through Books

June 12, 2018


Not only is literacy essential for a child’s fundamental education and future, it also has significant impacts on physical health and well-being. Did you know that talking with your baby helps your baby's brain grow? It's true! Even though babies can't talk back, talking with your baby — reading aloud, singing songs, telling stories, asking questions — helps stimulate critical early brain development that is the foundation for learning. With a strong foundation, your baby will be able to read by third grade, (a major milestone) and will be more likely to graduate on time, and be healthy later in life.*



A solid foundation of language nutrition - the use of language, beginning at birth, that is sufficiently rich in engagement, quality, quantity and context that it nourishes the child socially, neurologically and linguistically - is critical in developing a child’s capacity to learn. Research demonstrates that the single strongest predictor of a child's academic success is not socioeconomic status, level of parental education, income or ethnicity, but rather the quality and quantity of words spoken to the baby in the first three years of life. Learn more about the science of language nutrition here.* 

Dr. Darcy Mahoney, Emory School of Nursing assistant professor, discusses how delivering “language nutrition” by talking to your child from an early age can improve vocabulary and reading performance. Watch the video below to learn more about language nutrition. Browse the Talk with me Baby collection of videos to see how you can work language nutrition into your life with your baby every day.* 

Just as healthy food nourishes a growing baby’s body, language nutrition nourishes a baby’s brain. Quantity and quality of nourishing language, like healthy food, is critical to brain development.

By promoting early childhood literacy, GBBF impacts health literacy through encouraging families to read with their children early and providing books in the home.


Talk With Me Baby is a collaboration of six leadership organizations, all working to bring the concept of language nutrition into public awareness and educate caregivers on the importance of talking with their baby every day, in an effort to close the word gap. The number of loving words a baby hears in the first three years of life makes a big difference. Watch the video below to see just how important these loving words are to brain development and academic success.*

The Georgia Department of Public Health launched an initiative called “Talk with Me Baby,” producing a book for healthcare providers to give to families to encourage reading and appropriate communication with their babies. The Tennessee Department of Health is launching a pilot of this initiative in Middle Tennessee, providing copies of this book and training to healthcare providers to promote during family visits.


To emphasize the benefits of reading with children beginning at birth, GBBF launched the birthing hospital initiative in 2014, partnering with hospitals across the state to introduce Tennessee’s Imagination Library program to families of newborns. Our goal is to have partnerships with birthing hospitals all across the state of Tennessee, so that every child has the chance to grow with a healthy body and a healthy mind through books. Twenty birthing hospitals are now participating in the birthing hospital initiative. Through these partnerships, each family of a newborn child will be given the opportunity to enroll in Tennessee's Imagination Library and begin receiving one book per month mailed to the child's home, at no cost to the family. Each child enrolled in the program prior to hospital discharge will receive a gift of the first Imagination Library book The Little Engine that Could. Connecting with children and their families at the time of birth allows us to engage families as early as possible in experiencing the joy of reading together while helping children develop a love of learning that will last a lifetime.


Thank You to the Birthing Hospitals Partnering with the TN Imagination Library:
  • Tennova Harton Regional Medical Center (Coffee County)
  • Saint Thomas Midtown (Davidson County)
  • Laughlin Memorial Hospital (Greene County)
  • Takoma Regional Hospital (Greene County)
  • Morristown Hamblen Healthcare System (Hamblen County)
  • Erlanger (Hamilton County)
  • Erlanger East (Hamilton County)
  • Parkridge Medical Center (Hamilton County)
  • University of Tennessee Medical Center (Knox County)
  • Lincoln Medical Center (Lincoln County)
  • Saint Thomas Rutherford (Rutherford County)
  • TriStar StoneCrest Medical Center (Rutherford County)
  • Indian Path Medical Center (Sullivan County)
  • Baptist Hospital (Shelby County)
  • Methodist LeBonheur Germantown Hospital (Shelby County)
  • Methodist South Hospital (Shelby County)
  • Johnson City Medical Center (Washington County)
  • Franklin Wood Community Hospital (Washington County)
  • Volunteer Martin (Weakley County)
  • Williamson Medical Center (Williamson County)


Language Nutrition™ is free! All parents have to do is talk, interact, and engage with their children in every day life conversations. Here are the basic guidelines for talking with your baby.*

  • Feed Your Baby's Brain: All parents want the best for their baby. And we know healthy food helps grow a healthy baby. But to grow a healthy brain, babies need more. Babies need lots of loving words.
  • Speak In Your Home Language: Parents can read with their child daily and tell stories in the home language. If parents aren’t comfortable reading themselves, they can point to illustrations and tell their own story
  • Use Lots of Loving Words: Babies respond best to lots of loving words, including words of encouragement, praise and questions. Avoid using directives such as “No, Stop, Be quiet” and instead use positive words and speak in a happy voice.
  • Speak Using Parentese: Parentese is a unique approach to speaking that serves to get and keep the baby’s attention. Speak in a melodic tone and use a higher pitch than when you normally speak. Use short, simple sentences, with well-formed, elongated consonants and vowels.



* Note: Content taken from Talk With Me Baby website and Toolkit