Can talking to your baby give him or her the head start necessary to excel later in school? Apparently so according to a NY Times article that came about earlier this month (April 10, 2013) called The Power of Talking to Your Baby by Tina Rosenburg. The article discussed research by Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley from the University of Kansas, who published a book entitled “Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children.” Their study found that children whose families were on welfare heard about 600 words per hour; working-class children heard 1,200 per hour; and children from professional families heard 2,100 words. Rosenburg noted that, “…by age 3, a poor child would have heard 30 million fewer words in his home environment than a child from a professional family.” Furthermore, “[t]he disparity mattered: 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.” Ironically, talk coming from the TV was found detrimental not helpful to the child.
I found this article fascinating and wonder what other people think. Does your environment during your first three years of life determine your outcome later on? If the first years are so important, what about the birth experience? What about talking in utero? What about the hundreds of other factors that can influence a child’s learning experience and growth, i.e. food, friends, school, family, teachers? Don’t challenges actually help you grow and make you who you are if you are able to overcome those challenges? Or is that unfair?
On a personal note, I can’t help but think about talkative verses quieter parents. My husband and I are both more on the quiet side. Okay, I can be REALLY quiet. Does that make a difference? My little one year old is not very talkative. Is that because of me or is that just the way he is? I know my issue is different from what was addressed as a concern in the article, which was the disparity for children with socioeconomic backgrounds. I’m still curious. Our talk may be less than average as far as quantity goes but the quality is very high. Does that make a difference? We are generally positive parents but we could probably work on increasing the frequency of conversations. So should every city start a program like Providence, RI where poorer parents are provided home visitors that teach family conversation? What about all other post-natal care like breastfeeding or postpartum depression? Where does it end or even begin?