My mom loves to tell me stories about what she used to do with us when we were kids, and how those things have made us who we are today. She stayed at home with my brother and me until we were in grade school, and, as a teacher, she was always planning educational activities and projects for us to complete. She thinks that it is because of this that I cannot go for longer than a few days without some sort of deadline or craft project to do, and she’s probably right.
She also read us TIME Magazine and the Chicago Tribune when we were infants. When I first heard that, I laughed. Did she expect us to understand what she was reading to us when we hadn’t even said our first words yet? “Of course not,” she replied, “but if I didn’t read it aloud to you, I wouldn’t have had time to read it otherwise. Plus, I figured it was good for you.”
Apparently, mother really does know best in this situation. According to a new article in the New York Times, talking to your baby can make all the difference when it comes to their education. Babies whose parents talk to their children more enter school more ready to engage with the learning process and, perhaps unsurprisingly, their language skills were much better, too.
The article cites a 1995 study by Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley at the University of Kansas. Their book, “Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children,” inextricably linked the amount of words babies heard to their academic ability. It also linked the amount of words babies heard to socioeconomic status:
Not only was the amount of words a point of concern, but also the level of vocabulary. Children’s language skills begin to level off when they reach the level of their parents, so the disparity continues through the generations of poor families. This language disparity could also explain the gender gap in education, because the study found that parents talk much more to girls than they do to boys. This could explain why poor boys are more likely to fall behind in school than any other subgroup.
It seems like there is an extremely easy and almost free way to raise the IQ of your child: talk to him or her as much as you can. However, it might not be that easy. It’s not that poor parents don’t talk to their kids as much because they just don’t feel like it; often, parents who work low-wage jobs are forced to work longer hours or past their child’s bedtime in order to make ends meet. In cases where the child is being raised by a single parent, or where both parents are working low-wage jobs, having one parent stay at home isn’t usually an option.
So what are parents to do? The first step is to make the most of the time you do have to spend with your child, no matter how much time there is. If you are at a loss of what to say to your child, or you worry your vocabulary isn’t large enough, try what my mom did and read to your child. The more words your child hears, the better off he or she will be, so give it a try. It certainly can’t hurt.
Photo Credit: Harold Groven