Among all the parenting advice out there, we can all agree that the benefits of reading to your baby are indisputable. Moms who constantly goo-goo and ga-ga to their infant are no longer seen as crazy. Even the parents narrating every detail of life–“Look little Timmy, thereʼs a tree and a squirrel!”–arenʼt viewed as an overachiever.
But, a recent NY Times article suggests cooing and simple narrating might not be enough. In “The Power of Talking to Your Baby,” Tina Rosenberg says you should take mere talking a step further. Talking, she says, should be replaced by talking and talking and talking to your little one. Using the above sentence, for example, she suggests expanding on that simple sentence. “Look little Timmy, thereʼs a cherry tree and a squirrel! The cherry tree trunk is brown with lichen growing on it and itʼs leaves are green, itʼs flowers pale pink. Those flowers will turn into fruit, known as cherries. We love to eat cherries! We hope to eat them before the squirrels do. Squirrels are city tree rats.” Okay, maybe not that last sentence, but you get the idea. Ms. Rosenberg cites shocking research on the effects of talking to an infant, how there is a great disparity between children born into poor, middle-class and wealthy homes in terms of how much talking the child hears and, ultimately, how hearing a parentʼs talking can affect the childʼs intelligence.
“The disparity was staggering. Children whose families were on welfare heard about 600 words per hour. Working-class children heard 1,200 words per hour, and children from professional families heard 2,100 words. By age 3, a poor child would have heard 30 million fewer words in his home environment than a child from a professional family. And the disparity mattered: the greater the number of words children heard from their parents or caregivers before they were 3, the higher their IQ and the better they did in school. TV talk not only didnʼt help, it was detrimental.”
30 Million Fewer Words! So, while you may bore yourself to tears chatting it up, your baby is getting smarter with every spoken word. The next time you see a city tree rat–ahem–squirrel, really go into detail. Your child may thank you later when they have to choose which full academic scholarship to accept.