Children who grow up in middle-class professional families start off ahead of their working-class peers, and their advantage keeps growing over time. There’s been a lot of energy, time, and money spent trying to address this learning gap, but in her recent article, Tina Rosenberg writes about new initiatives that are attempting to prevent the poverty disadvantage happening in the first place. In the studies described in her article, parents read to their toddlers, and take advantage of community resources like read-aloud day at the local library. Parents also learn how to talk to their babies from birth on.
One of the most robust differences between children who enter kindergarten ready to learn to read and those who don’t is the number of words they’ve heard spoken to them in their first three years. In a major longitudinal research project, the greater the number of words children heard from their parents or caregivers before they were 3, the higher their IQ and the better they did in school. And TV talk is not a good substitute for parents; not only did television talk not help, it was detrimental.
So how should adults talk to infants, toddlers, and young children?
- Be conversational.
- Talk directly to your infant, toddler, or young child.
- Incorporate songs, rhymes, questions, actions, and laughter into your conversation.
- Talk about everyday doings.
- Tell stories about family members, friends, and familiar things.
- Different words and cadences can delight and intrigue, but don’t overdo the cooing or high-pitched “baby” voice.
- Share your thoughts.
- Chat about interesting occurrences around the world.
- Be playful and attentive.
- And, most importantly, encourage children’s responses. The more that children—even infants and toddlers—engage in conversation, and try out sounds and language themselves, the better.
For Tina Rosenberg’s article:
For more ideas, go to www.beyondintelligence.net