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Thirty Million Words: Building a Child's Brain

Homepage Forums Brain Based Learning Book Clubs Thirty Million Words: Building a Child's Brain

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    • #66504
      Ernest Izard

      Dana Suskind, MD, a pediatric cochlear implant surgeon, discovered in her practice that some children did not respond as well as others to her life-changing surgery for children born deaf. Her research led her to conclude that a parent/caregiver’s conversations with a child from birth to three years made the difference and is attributed to building the brain of the child. It is not only that the parent talks to the child, the manner and tone, and amount of talking also impacts the quality of brain development. Narrating to the child what you are doing as you change a diaper or carry on any other activity assists in the process of brain development. Child-directed speech, also known as baby talk or parentese, contributes to this development by its exaggerating of sounds that make up words. Children will not recognize the words spoken this way, but they pick up on the aural shaping of the words in their hearing. In one study, children from 11 to 14 months old who were spoken to in more child directed speech were compared to a control group who were talked to more in adult type talk. The children spoken to in child-directed speech at age two knew twice as many words as the control group who had heard more adult-directed speech.

      The value of this book is to get this information into the hands of as many new parents, childcare workers, caregivers, and educators of preschool children as possible in order to build the brains of these children to their greatest potential which will pay off the rest of their lives.

    • #72572
      Lisa Baker

      Thank you for posting regarding the Thirty Million Words Initiative. As a pre-school ESE teacher in a Title 1 (High poverty), this is a topic of particular interest. I do my best to create a very language rich classroom. I narrate most of our day, looking for opportunities for children to hear language as well as hold conversations.

      Based on your postings, I was able to find the website for the Thirty Million Words Initiative: The website gives a wonderful overview of the project. I love this quote from the promotional video : “We are paying for failure instead of investing in success.” The focus of the initiative is to give parents the knowledge that they are the ones with the power to shape their child’s brain. Parents have the power to grow their child’s brain. Words truly are powerful. If we can help parents to close the word gap, everyone wins.

      The most interesting aspect of this initiative for me was the LENA technology tool. Think of it as a “word pedometer.” This device records a clip of a child’s language. It records the child and adult conversations. Then a sophisticated program analyzes the recording. From this analysis it is able to create several reports. These reports are then able to give a visual of the language the child is exposed to during a typical activity. It is the power of these visuals that are especially motivating. Being able to put something as elusive as the number of words in a conversation to show a parent as feedback is such a powerful tool. This kind of accountability and monitoring tool is what I believe accounts for much of the success of this program. I hope this program success is able to be duplicated across the country.

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