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Building language rich environments, Jilly Tyler

In a recent episode of the Purposely Podcast, we had the pleasure of hosting Jilly Tyler, CEO of Talking Matters New Zealand, where we posed the fundamental question: "Why does talking matter?"



Jilly underscored the critical role of early childhood, especially within the first 1,000 days, in shaping a child's development. Drawing upon international research, she highlighted a striking reality: by the age of four, children encounter significant discrepancies in the number of words they hear, with some exposed to thirty million more words than their peers. This trend is mirrored in New Zealand, where studies reveal a comparable gap, with some children starting school equipped with vocabularies of 6,000 words, while others possess only 3,000.


Driven by these insights, Jilly and her dedicated teams at Talking Matters are committed to developing and implementing initiatives that cultivate linguistically rich environments for infants and toddlers across communities. Their efforts extend to engaging families and community groups, aiming to underscore the pivotal role of communication in child rearing.


Emphasising the remarkable pace of a baby's brain development — forging 700 new connections per second — Jilly highlights the critical window of the first three years, during which eighty percent of the brain's development occurs. She stresses that the quality and quantity of interaction and dialogue during this period profoundly influence a child's path toward educational success and broader life opportunities.


At Talking Matters, an innovative approach integrates education, health, and community organisations, all aligned in communicating the same fundamental message.

"Words are the nourishment for a child's brain, and one of the simplest yet most impactful actions parents can take is engaging in conversations with them," points out Tyler. "The more words a child is exposed to and engages with, the deeper their comprehension of concepts and language structure, thereby enhancing their capacity to learn."


Assuming the role of CEO amidst the COVID-19 pandemic in June 2020, Jilly Tyler succeeded the organisation's founder, Alison Sutton. Despite their retirement, both Jilly and Alison remain steadfast in their commitment to reshaping systems to improve outcomes for children, families, and communities. Anchored in evidence-based methodologies, their shared mission revolves around effecting positive change in the lives of young individuals.


Jilly's leadership is underpinned by a wealth of experience in early childhood development and education, encompassing teaching, professional development, and educational management. Her tenure in senior positions within central government, overseeing the implementation of early childhood policies in education and health, further enriches her expertise.


Having spearheaded data-driven social innovation projects in collaboration with entities like Ko Awatea, Two Tales, and Toha, Jilly embodies a visionary approach to effecting transformative change in the realm of child development and community welfare.


The episode featuring Jilly Tyler and Talking Matters NZ is out Monday 1 April 2024

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