Talk, talk, talk. Sometimes I feel as though I’m talking to myself. I remind myself that talking to my young children really is to their benefit, even though Brandon (age 13 months) may not respond much with his own words. My husband and I use everyday language and vocabulary without watering it down, and we expose them to different perspectives and ideas. It’s important to let the kids hear my husband and I have conversations, too, to learn the social aspect of conversation. Betty Hart and Todd Risley conducted a longitudinal study looking at how much kids were talked to in the very early years and their vocabulary development and future academic success. The results were impressive. From their website, http://www.lenababy.com/Study.aspx:
“With few exceptions, the more parents talked to their children, the faster the children’s vocabularies were growing and the higher the children’s IQ test scores at age three and later.”
“The data revealed that the most important aspect of children’s language experience is its amount.”
“Differences in the amount of cumulative experience children had … were strongly linked to differences at age three in children’s rates of vocabulary growth, vocabulary use, and general accomplishments and strongly linked to differences in school performance at age nine.”
The gist is this, as Peg Tyre wrote in The Good School: How Smart Parents Get Their Kids the Education They Deserve, “The more children are spoken to, the more they themselves speak. And the more they speak, the greater their vocabularies. The greater their vocabularies, the better their reading fluency and reading comprehension is likely to be.” I see this abundance of vocabulary and impressive reading skill in my almost three year old, Parker. He speaks in complex sentences, uses advanced vocabulary, and shares amazing, imaginative ideas. I attribute this to the constant conversation he has with the people around him and being read to from not only the children’s books that he enjoys, but also from our higher level texts that we read aloud.
So talk to your children. Talk a lot. Talk out loud while you’re at the grocery store, post office, or in the car. Point out what you see and describe it. Ask your children questions. Help them develop answers, if necessary. Engage your children in conversation on a regular basis. Your child’s increased intelligence and later success may depend on it.