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preschooler with picture book
Dr. Joanne Meier
Sound It Out
Joanne Meier

Talk to your baby, narrate what you’re doing, talk to your baby, words, words, words!

I usually skip over Sunday’s USA Weekend section, heading straight for the Wall Street Journal business section (sounds dull, but there’s a column I love!). One week USA Weekend ran a light, but good article, called Baby Talk (opens in a new window). In it, Kelly Dinardo identified 15 things parents should do for their baby. In addition to important things such as dosing properly and developing baby’s sleep habits, Dinardo addressed the importance of talking to your baby.

I’m so glad the author included something about the importance of fostering language skills. The long term effect of talk within families was most carefully documented by Hart & Risley in one of my favorite books, Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children (reprinted in 2002). Their methodology was painstaking; their results fascinating and really important. Here’s a small example of their findings:

In professional families, children heard an average of 2,153 words per hour, while children in working class families heard an average of 1,251 words per hour, and children in welfare families heard an average of 616 words per hour. Extrapolated, this means that in a year children in professional families heard an average of 11 million words, while children in working class families heard an average of 6 million words, and children in welfare families heard an average of 3 million words. By kindergarten, a child from a welfare family could have heard 32 million words fewer than a classmate from a professional family.

These differences can have a huge impact on children’s vocabularies and literacy preparedness. If you haven’t read this book yet, consider it among your professional book choices for 2007, and check out Todd Risley on the Reading Rockets webcast, From Babbling to Books.

About the Author

Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.

Publication Date
January 4, 2007