CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — A new initiative encouraging people to read, talk and play with their children more often will debut on May 12 in conjunction with the Champaign County Community Coalition Walk as One event.

The Read, Talk, Play, Everyday! program is a part of the United Way of Champaign County’s ongoing early childhood development efforts.

“This campaign highlights how vital the first few years can be,” said Beverly Baker, Chief Impact Officer for United Way of Champaign County. “The years between birth and age five are a golden opportunity to give children the best possible start in life. Reading, talking and playing with our children more often, can make a real difference in their development.”

According to officials, Read, Talk, Play, Everyday! takes inspiration from research that shows 80 percent of brain growth happens during a child’s first 1,000 days. By stimulating children at an early age, they can be “ready to learn” when they start kindergarten.

Officials said the year-round campaign aims to provide free resources, information and encouragement to help caregivers and children in east-central Illinois commit to reading, talking and playing together daily. Free materials and information include a kindergarten readiness calendar and daily parenting tips available by text or online HERE.

Read, Talk, Play, Everyday! volunteers will officially kick off their campaign by distributing free kindergarten readiness kits in various Champaign, Urbana and Rantoul neighborhoods during the Walk as One event on May 12.

Organizers said they still need volunteers for the May 12 event. Anyone interested can sign up ONLINE.

Read, Talk, Play, Everyday! is a community-wide initiative under the United Way of Champaign County dedicated to providing preschool-aged children with the opportunities and resources to help them enter kindergarten ready for success.