Talk to Your Baby: Now With Science

Once again, from the New York Times: Providence, Rhode Island has won a $5 million prizefor a large-scale implementation of the well-established finding that talking to your baby and toddler is critically important to language development.

A little background:  We know that, by 12 months poor children have fallen behind middle-class children in ability to talk, listen and, learn, and this gets worse every year.  There’s no consensus, but no shortage of theories, on why poverty is a leading indicator of poor learning ability.  Recently, attention has focused on exposure to spoken language for children from birth to 3.  The research, by Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley, has been around since at least 1995.  From the article:

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. TV talk not only didn’t help, it was detrimental. (emphasis added)

But language exposure has been difficult to quantify.  Now, using new digital tools (they have their place in child development, just not in the hands of toddlers!), Providence, R.I. will use that $5 million to  reach two thousand families each year  in a project to improve talking and conversation and to gather lots of data.

Now, if only there were an early childhood education model that emphasized spoken language, building narrative through question and answer dialog, and development of vocabulary…Rhode Island Montessori schools, are you listening?

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