Bionka Burkhalter (left) listens as Beth Suskind from the Thirty Million Words Project gives a presentation on building her new baby’s brain. (Photo credit: Julienne Schaer, The Hechinger Report.)
A world-famous study performed in 1995 found that some children, particularly those born into poverty, hear thirty million fewer words by age four than their peers. Children who heard more words were better prepared to enter and succeed in school, while children who heard fewer words struggled and lagged behind. Those thirty million words are a key part to building a child’s brain and preventing the achievement gap.
Preparing children to be successful in school and in life starts at home, from the moment they are born to age three. Dana Suskind is a pediatric surgeon at the University of Chicago and founder of the Thirty Million Words® Initiative. TMW is an initiative that harnesses the power of parent language to give children the best start in life. By using conversation in daily activities, parents are helping their child’s brain grow and impacting their future.
Parents are a child’s first and most important teachers. 85% of a baby’s brain develops in the first three years. Enriching their early language environment occurs by promoting parent-child interactions, which lead to positive outcomes.
“Language can in itself be a key part of building a child’s brain, but the parent relationship really is the basis for all of child development.” -Dana Suskind
In a recent article called, “How do you make a baby smart? Word by word, a Chicago project says,” Sara Neufeld follows the story of a young Chicago mother who is part of a Thirty Million Words pilot project. After the birth her child, she received a presentation on the immense power of frequent conversation with her infant, and eventually toddler, to build his brain and lifelong learning capabilities. Simply talking to him during routine activities like diaper changes or feedings, responding to his cues, and giving him a chance to communicate through eye contact or baby sounds can make a world of difference.
KVC believes in the importance of this study since the vast majority of a person’s brain develops in their first few years of life. Through parent/child therapy and other vital support, KVC partners with families to help children receive the best possible start in life.
Click here to learn more about the Thirty Million Words® Initiative.