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One simple trick to help your kids do better in school and life

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
April 11th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Apparently there's one simple trick to get your kids to excel in school and life beyond. However, like all things that are worthwhile, it requires a certain amount of early effort and dedication.

PROVIDENCE, RI (Catholic Online) - So what's the one simple trick that will help your kids excel in school and life beyond? Talking to them. Talking to them early and often. How early? At least at birth, if not sooner.

Studies are revealing that babies who hear a lot of words in their daily life from birth, do better than kids that hear few. It doesn't seem to matter what the words are, just that they hear them.

A study done Betty Hart and Todd Risley at the University of Kansas showed that children need to hear approximately 21,000 words per day "to develop at an appropriate pace,"  according to Providence Talks, a pilot program designed to coach parents to talk more to their babies.

Generally speaking, middle-class parents have gotten the word that they need to talk to their children in order for them to develop normally. Parents from lower socioeconomic classes tend to speak much less to their children. It doesn't help that they generally have to work more and get to spend less time with their children and that they might not be up-to-date on the latest parenting practices.

Studies show that children growing up in low-income households will hear 30 million words fewer than their middle- and high-income peers by their fourth birthday.

As a society, we have spent billions on trying to close achievement gaps between the wealthy and middle-class students and the low. It is understood that there is no inherent difference in ability at birth between the classes. Instead, educational gaps develop over time. Billions have been spent in an effort to close the gap, often with only marginal success.

The finding that children who hear more words do better offers an inexpensive and practical solution to the problem. While it may not erase all inequality, it can help close the gap. All parents need to do is make sure they talk to their babies as much as possible, every day.

Studies have shown that the more words a child hears as a baby, regardless of their background, the better they seem to do. More words equals a higher IQ. However, the child's progress seems to level off at the same place as their parent's. This can cause achievement gaps to become generational in nature.

Another crucial caveat was discovered by study. Television talk, meaning speech provided by a television, doesn't help. In fact, it makes things worse. So putting your child in front of uncle television to close the word gap will backfire.

Parents and caregivers need to talk to their children, and that's all there is to it.

It does not matter what you talk about, as babies do not understand speech in their first months. All that matters is that you talk. You can narrate what you're doing, coo and sing all you like, just talk.

Knowing this critical piece of information is powerful. Parents equipped with this knowledge can start giving their children an edge on life, even before they start school or learn to talk. It's an important lever that can help break cycles of poor achievement and poverty that often plague children from low-income households. It's also a critical reminder for others.

The Providence Talks program will provide further data and more conclusive results as the program is launched in 2014. However, you don't need to wait to help your kids, all you need to do is start talking.

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