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Starved for Words? Program Uses Talking to Nourish Kids' Brains

Georgia Public Broadcasting

A chasm exists in language learning. It involves the cumulative total of words that babies and toddlers hear — and even more importantly, the words they don't hear. It’s called the "30 million word gap." "Research shows that by three years of age, children from low-income households hear 30 million fewer words than a child from a professional family," says Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health. "Language is nutrition for the brain," says Fitzgerald, an ob/gyn. She has placed the word gap high on Georgia's top 10 public health priorities for 2014. This past December, the United Way of Greater Atlanta pledged to support the "Talk With Me Baby" program. It will give $500,000 each year for three years toward a new collaborative effort. The Georgia program will begin by getting health care providers to start talking. Training nurses to introduce parents to the idea of talking to their babies is a crucial component. Training will extend to pediatric nurses, nurses in hospitals' labor and delivery departments, and even those nurses who care for pregnant women.

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"Children are made readers on the laps of their parents." — Emilie Buchwald