Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Power of Talking To Your Baby

The Importance of Language

The Policy Debate:

science of early childhood development and education starts at birth
A spoonful of song
helps the brain to develop!
By age 3, a child from welfare will have heard over ten million fewer words in his home environment than a child from a professional family (based on 12 hours a day). 

I'd like to emphasize that, in my view, economic status in not so important per se to determine the vocabulary the child will have, but the vocabulary of the parents themselves. So the point is not whether the afluent parents talk more to their children, but that when they talk, they tend to do so with a richer vocabulary.


Many grassroots programs have been created to reach parents in hopes of helping children get the language exposure they need to succeed. Here are just a few I have come across:
  • Reach Out and Read
  • Born to Read
  • Beginning With Books
  • Words Work
  • Nurse Family Partnership
  • Ounce of Prevention ('Ounce')
  • Creating Family Conversation
Many of these initiatives like the Providence Talks program (Creating Family Conversation) are directed at connecting with first time parents right out the hospital, perhaps even before the birth of their first child. The key to early learning is a child's exposure to language spoken by parents and caretakers from birth to age three, the more the better. 

The following excerpt from the full article, The Achievement gap, is an excellent summary of my feelings: 

"So how to get it right from the start? The crux of home visiting work is relationship building with a mother and, by extension, an entire family. To begin to alleviate poverty's devastating effects on a child's development, the thinking goes, a family needs a positive frame of reference for relationships. Provide a young mother whose life may be filled with chaos and drama with the opportunity to be heard and valued. Arm her with the information she needs to speak up in institutional settings, whether a hospital delivery room or a kindergarten class, and in personal relationships. Show her how to develop a baby's vocabulary through reading, singing and stimulating conversation--starting in utero. Guide her to nurture her child and herself.
The result, if the strategy is successful, is that mothers in underserved communities are empowered to advocate for themselves and their children--and children grow up in more grounded, affectionate, engaging environments. Compare the school involvement of low-income parents versus affluent ones, and the differences lie in confidence levels and institutional knowledge. Look at children's academic performance and life outcomes in general, and the emotional stability and cognitive stimulation they get at home are undeniably enormous factors."

Non-profit organizations, Like "Ounce" are beginning to receive the funding necessary to support home visitation programs, that make a difference for families - one child at a time. Bravo!

Inspirational Ted Talk (only ten minutes of your life!)

Dr. Patricia Kuhl, co-director for the Institute 
for Learning & Brain Sciences, 
is one of the most important professional                                   
advocates of early childhood development
and education. She is my neighbor, based
in Seattle at the University of Washington, 
and her work is ground breaking.

Please take the time, when you can, and watch her TED talk  on the babies incredible ability for language before age one. 

Cheerfully and curiously, Papa Green Bean 
"Sharing simple insights" for first time parents and educators
Papa Green Bean's new advocacy cards
Created by Papa & Anna Green