Goodby Launches Bay Area Child’s Vocabulary Initiative

Clinton Foundation wants to take it national

This week, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners launches a new program in Oakland, Calif., aimed at helping parents boost their young children’s vocabulary. The effort was created for Northern California’s Bay Area Council but already it’s drawn broader attention: “Too Small to Fail,” a program supported by the Clinton Foundation, wants to use it as a model for a national initiative.


The effort is called “Talking Is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing.” Rather than develop a more traditional campaign and PSAs, the pitch features a colorful clothing line, designed by GS&P, that will be given away to new parents. The campaign shows how simple daily efforts to interact with kids, such as describing objects seen during a bus ride, singing songs, reading aloud or telling stories, can improve babies’ ability to build vocabulary and boost brain development.

GS&P worked off of research showing that fewer than half of Oakland parents and caregivers read to their children and even fewer report talking about their day or singing to kids. The agency underscored the importance of those activities in impacting the early learning of young children as they build the vocabularies that help with later reading success.

The San Francisco agency pointed to research showing that children from affluent backgrounds hear 30 million more words than kids from low-income homes; this initiative seeks to close that word gap in a practical way.

“What makes this campaign different is that it’s not just another brochure,” said Jim Wunderman, CEO of the Bay Area Council. “We are bringing learning opportunities to Oakland by giving parents actual tools—a onesie for the baby, a blanket, a bath towel—that will spark conversation.”

The effort is supported by billboards and bus-shelter ads as well as TV and radio public service ads running in the Bay Area, along with a website for parents,

The clothing and other materials, which are being produced by local retailer Oaklandish, are being distributed at locations that include Oakland hospitals, pediatric clinics, family playgroups and childcare programs.

“‘Free with every baby’ are the simple instructions,” said GS&P co-chairman Jeff Goodby. “And frankly, it’s just as much fun for parents as it is for the baby.”