I came across this wonderful article today as I was scrolling through Twitter. It appeared in the New York Times 10th April 2013 in the Opinion section. There is little I can add to what it says only it supports the work of Dr Sheila Delongarti of Macquarie University NSW Australia into the importance of speaking to babies from birth into correct sentences about anything and everything. In fact she has found that babies and toddlers exposed to high level vocabulary in correct sentence structures develop extremely good body language skills which then helps to develop high levels of emotional intelligence. She calls this process the development of ” Theory of Mind”.The implications of the power of talking to your baby for the improving the chances of children learning to read easily, are obvious.
“By the time a poor child is 1-year-old, she has most likely already fallen behind middle-class children in her ability to talk, understand and learn. The gap between poor children and wealthier ones widens each year, and by high school it has become a chasm. American attempts to close this gap in schools have largely failed, and a consensus is starting to build that these attempts must start long before school — before preschool, perhaps even before birth.
There is no consensus, however, about what form these attempts should take, because there is no consensus about the problem itself. What is it about poverty that limits a child’s ability to learn? Researchers have answered the question in different ways: Is it exposure to lead? Character issues like a lack of self-control or failure to think of future consequences? The effects of high levels of stress hormones? The lack of a culture of reading?
A poor child is likely to hear millions fewer words at home than a child from a professional family. And the disparity matters.Another idea, however, is creeping into the policy debate: that the key to early learning is talking — specifically, a child’s exposure to language spoken by parents and caretakers from birth to age 3, the more the better. It turns out, evidence is showing, that the much-ridiculed stream of parent-to-child baby talk — Feel Teddy’s nose! It’s so soft! Cars make noise — look, there’s a yellow one! Baby feels hungry? Now Mommy is opening the refrigerator! — is very, very important. (So put those smartphones away!)
The idea has been successfully put into practice a few times on a small-scale, but it is about to get its first large-scale test, in Providence, R.I., which last month won the $5 million grand prize in Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge, beating 300 other cities for best new idea. In Providence, only one in three children enter school ready for kindergarten reading. The city already has a network of successful programs in which nurses, mentors, therapists and social workers regularly visit pregnant women, new parents and children in their homes, providing medical attention and advice, therapy, counselling and other services. Now Providence will train these home visitors to add a new service: creating family conversation.