What image comes to your mind when you hear or read those two words together? To some it may signify telling the truth as opposed to telling a lie. To others it might reference word choice as if to say something funny or say something mean.
But looking at it another way, there is ample research which shows words matter to the very youngest among us and can have a huge determining effect on the quality of life which will be lived tomorrow by the infants of today.
Wow. What does all that mean?
In 1995 two researchers discovered that infant children of wealthier families had heard and been exposed to 30 million more words by the time they reached age 3, compared to the infant children of families who were less well off. Those children who hear more words begin kindergarten with bigger stronger vocabularies, are stronger readers, and get higher test scores. These children exposed to more words also have better processing functions and better understand instructions at earlier ages.
How many children never reach their full potential in life simply because their parents did not understand there was a window between birth and age 3 when they could have made more of an effort to read and verbally interact with their newborns? The opportunity is easy to miss because of our prejudices and misconceptions about what kinds of messages, words, and understandings of what our infants can process. Why would I read or carry on an adult conversation with a 2-month-old pooping and burping machine?
Well, when the words cross the child’s ears, the words become imprinted in the child’s brain. The child can’t speak the word. The child does not know what the word means. But the brain is processing that verbal imprint, almost like a CPU. So, the brain is working, and the more words flooded into the brain, the more that silent work, the search for processing and understanding, is taking place.
Almost everyone can remember a time when they were stunned when a cute little 3 or 4-year-old just blurts a complex thought induced sentence.
The Not-For-Profit North Central Regional Betterment Coalition (NCRBC) thinks it is time to help more parents raise better kids by advocating for more parental and grand parental reading and verbal engagement with all new 0-to-3-year-olds.
NCRBC President J. Burt says the mission has a dual imperative.
“We want all children to grow up to have the most satisfying life they can possibly have, and if we do that, we know we will be increasing the quantity of the number of quality people living in LaSalle, Bureau, and Putnam counties. That helps our communities, our employers, and helps to attract more new employers.”
NCRBC got started in the 2000’s when a government report found that what was going to hold North Central Illinois back economically was an over abundance of low skilled low wage jobs, a shortage people living here with any kind of advanced degree or certificate beyond high school, and a significant drug problem. In 2009 NCRBC convened a gathering of 165 people made up of business, government, and educators to hear an address by former White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley on the issue. For the past 7 years NCRBC has been the sponsor of the Discover Manufacturing Career Expo, which creates an opportunity for high school students to tour all aspects of a local manufacturer, and then participate in sessions with more manufacturers and instructors at Illinois Valley Community College.
Now NCRBC is preparing to launch a multi-pronged effort advocacy campaign to get more kids exposed to more words. By partnering with the region’s birthing hospitals, including St. Margaret’s Health, the group will provide literature on the importance of reading to be distributed at pre-natal classes, hospital discharge packs, and from pediatricians at the 6-week check-up. In addition, the human resource departments of the region’s larger employers will be asked to distribute the reading advocacy literature to their employees who are expectant parents and grandparents. A digital advertising campaign is planned to help reemphasize the message.
Between the uber availability of smart phones, and access to the public library system there is no shortage of materials for parents to read to their infants. In fact, a great place to start is to read this article out loud to your infant. If you want children to have the best possible life, then words matter.
In the video below please find some great tips for how to read with your child if they are in the range of 2 months old (more or less)….