Filling the thirty million word gap
The Thirty Million Words Initiative was founded in Chicago to educate parents about the importance of language and their little ones. The name is taken from education research in the 90’s that found some children heard 30 million more words by their fourth birthday and children who heard more words were better prepared for school. Here’s more on how parents can help build their child’s brain.
From the time babies are born, parents feed them, clothe them and comfort them. Now scientists say simple steps from day one can nurture their brains. Dana Suskind, M.D., is a pediatric surgeon who specializes in cochlear implants for deaf children. After starting the pediatric implant program at the University of Chicago, she began noticing some patients began to talk and learn after implant while some did not.
“In trying to figure out why this was, we started down this incredible path of understanding that while the cochlear implant could bring sound to a child’s brain, something else was needed,” Suskind told Ivanhoe.
That something else is caregiver conversation.
Suskind explained, “When you see a newborn little baby knowing its brain is underdeveloped and it is absolutely dependent upon your language and interaction for building it.”
During newborn hearing screenings, Chicago parents receive information about language and brain development. The Thirty Million Words Initiative advocates the three Ts for brain development. Tune in – follow your child’s lead to see what he is interested in. Talk more – narrate to your child. Seize opportunities to describe the world around him. And take turns; make it more like a conversation.
Suskind said, “At the end of the day the three Ts are about stimulating rich interaction between parent and child. Because that’s how you grow a brain.”
The Thirty Million Words Initiative also provides information to parents at Chicago pediatrician’s offices. This program may soon come to a city near you. The program is currently negotiating with other cities to expand.