We’ve all heard it: “Read to your child.” “Talk to your kids.” “Ask them questions.” “Make conversation out of/about everyday things.” Talk. Talk. Talk. Do you do it? For real sometimes I don’t even want to think let alone talk because I’m so tired or overwhelmed or overworked. While I am not a stats kind of person I do respond to the sobering statistic that the fewer words children are exposed to (in speech and text) the wider the achievement gap can/will be for them and this is evident by age 3.
Working in schools I can see firsthand how much parents actually talk to their children. While it is unfortunate for the child from a nurturing perspective, it is even more crippling for their abilities and education. The research makes strong connections to words spoken in homes to their socio-economic status. You might say this is bogus, but consider some things. If someone’s education is limited there are strong chances that their employment and income may also be limited, so they may speak fewer words/less to their child. This could equate to a deficit of millions of words never spoken to a child in a year. If you still don’t buy the idea of the “word gap” think about children you know, how much they talk and their intellectual ability and how much conversation they are surrounded by at home. Not just talking ‘at’ them, but real conversation…makes sense right?
So what can you do? It could never be more true and simple: Talk to your children. Talk productive talk in the bathtub. Talk about the toys in the bath or how to wash their face even if they are 2 months old. It can help get you in the habit of talking to them. Read stories. Now I am the first to tell you that after a long day with other people’s children I want to run to my own bed after bath time, but I suck it up and read “The Berenstain Bears” again for the 50th time and Tre loves it. I stop after each page and sometimes ask him what he thinks is going to happen next. Of course he knows because we’ve read it 100 times, but it gives me a way to ‘quiz’ him on how much he remembers and we are talking to each other.
Research says there are some consequences that come with talking, reading, and engaging with your child a lot. Any guesses? Well the first outcome is that they will talk to you (and maybe others) A LOT. The classic 1985 Run DMC song comes to mind, “You talk too much, you never shut up…” Ha ha. No, for real though, they will talk more and that is a good thing. The other outcome is research says they will have a greater vocabulary and will be able to use words in an appropriate context. I am sure all parents want their children to be successful in life and school. Right or wrong, good or bad, we are their first teachers. So let’s get to work and talk their ears off for once! Happy talking! –krystal
P.S. Google the Run DMC video and take a stroll back down memory lane!