The brain is one of the most mysterious “organs” in our body. Nobody truly knows exactly how it works. The only thing that we do know is that babies spend a majority of their time in utero building their brain. That is why babies and toddler’s heads are so out of proportion to the rest of their body. When a human baby is born, the baby cannot walk or even hold its own head up.
We have all seen it. A baby elephant is born and almost immediately, it is walking around. But with a human baby, it takes an additional 9 months (or more) before the baby becomes truly independently mobile.
And if you think that the first 9 months drained you … watch out for the next 9 months when the baby moves onto crawling, walking, running, and of course, putting everything in their mouth. If you thought you could take a break by going on the EasyBet Casino website for some quite alone time — think again. But I digress …
Every second of every day, that small baby is watching, listening, learning.
How many words is a human exposed to the age of 5?
The following information comes from the article “Start Early, Finish Strong: How To Help Every Child Become a Reader” July 1999 from the ed.gov website.
Basically the more words a child hears the more the child will be prepared for reading. Think about these numbers:
Number of words heard at home per hour by 1 to 2 year olds learning to talk:
- Low income: 620
- Middle income: 1,250
- High income: 2,150
Number of words heard by age 3:
- Low income: 10 million
- Middle income: 20 million
- High income: 30 million
Note: Other people have tried to copy this study and believe that difference is more along the lines of 4 million words, not 20 million words. But everybody agrees there is a gap.
How does reading out loud to children affect these numbers?
- Reading 30 minutes daily equals 900 hours of word exposure by age 5
- Reading 30 minutes weekly equals 130 hours of word exposure by age 5
- Reading less than 30 minutes weekly equals 60 hours of word exposure by age 5
Reading a book to your child involves talking to your child.
But I talk to my child …
Yes, you do talk to your child, and that is very important. But you probably talk to your child about what they did during the day, and the discussion will probably involve how James built a really big sandcastle, but Peter knocked it down while him and Jerry were playing soccer. Although that conversation is an important conversation (it teaches your child that you care about his day and that he is loved), it is different from the conversation you will get through reading a book.
The 30 million word gap …
Children from “privileged families” have heard 30 million more words than children from underprivileged families.
Many people are angry by that statement. By ignoring the statement denies us the ability to figure out why there is this difference and how we can get rid of that difference. Even if the difference is more along the lines of 4 million words, that is still a big difference.
But as I said above, it is not just the number of words. It is also the topic of conversation. If the topic of conversation every night is about what happened at the sandbox that day, even if the number of words are the same, the number of different (and new words) is not the same.
Bedtime Stories puts kids at a higher advantage than an elite private school education
Yes, you read that sentence correctly. The nightly bedtime ritual of reading a bedtime story to a child puts children at a better advantage than an elite private school education.
“Evidence shows that the difference between those who get bedtime stories and those who don’t — the difference in their life chances — is bigger than the difference between those who get elite private schooling and those that don’t,” Mr Swift said.
Ultimately the net good of bedtime reading in promoting strong family bonds outweighed any other downsides, Mr Swift said.
“You have to allow parents to engage in bedtime stories activities, in fact we encourage them because those are the kinds of interactions between parents and children that do indeed foster and produce these (desired) familial relationship goods.”
It is too bad that Mr. Swift is “crazy”, because he believes that parents should be thinking about the fact that when they read a bedtime story to their child that they are giving their child an advantage over another child. (As I said, Mr. Swift is a bit crazy.)
What other advantages are there to the bedtime story?
The obvious advantage is that the child is exposed to more vocabulary. You start out by reading the book, “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” and soon you find your inquisitive 4 year old asking about where penguins live, where is Antarctitca, why is Antarctica so cold, and the next thing you know the two of you are poking around on your phone and learning together about seed banks and how, “no you cannot go the seed bank in Antarctica and make a withdrawal of your favorite seeds”.
Can technology help bridge this gap?
The answer is “yes and no”.
Tucked In Tuesday. This is a program that was started by a school principal in Texas, Belinda George. Every Tuesday, the school principal would do a live stream video of herself reading a book to the students. She would encourage the students to join the video (Facebook) by doing shoutouts to the kids she saw connected. The children loved hearing the stories and the kids loved the shout outs.
As a woman in Mexico wrote, “she and her son tune in to hear me read because she does not have access to English books.”
For some parents, it is not just about not having access to the physical books. It is also about if the parent has the English skills to read the books. The “Tucked in Tuesday” program not only affected the children of the original school where this program started, it affects children (and families) in a positive way around the world.
And it is not just this one school. Many other schools across the US (and the world) have begun doing their own versions of “Tucked in Tuesday”.
So why do I say “no” to using technology to bridge the word gap
Social media. “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
Programs like “Tucked in Tuesday”, the ease of being able to answer a child’s million and one daily questions, typing WhatsApp messages to Grandma … Those are the positives of mobile phones and easy to access technology.
But the downside is social media. Group think. Small groups of people can seem to be much larger than they really are.
Or the echoing of thoughts. Even though the internet is huge and vast, in some ways it is too big. When something is overwhelming we tend to retreat into comfortable corners. This is true on social media. People tend to connect with and talk with like minded people. Then we don’t have that diversity of discussion that one would get in the local coffee house.
And I don’t even want to begin to talk about high tech companies, censorship, and their views on “correct speech”.
It makes me long for the days of the “nightly news program”, the “morning edition” of the local newspaper, and especially the “Sunday edition” of the local paper. But again, I am digressing …
“Satire and Man’s Search for Utopia”. That was the name of the literature course I took in High School. We read “Gulliver’s Travels”, “1984”, “Shangrila”, to name a few. My son is now 20 years old. We still do our nightly talking. We talk about current events, books like “1984”, and if unfortunately high tech companies are turning “1984” into reality.
But it all began with the nightly bedtime stories. It started out with “Dr. Suess” and progressed to “Babar”, and then moved onto whatever books my son found interesting at the local library.
I would have thought that by the time my son was 8 (or was it 10) that he would be “too old” for the nightly bedtime story. But every night, my son would go join his younger siblings in their room for the nightly bedtime ritual of storytime. It was a special time. Most of the time it was done with dad.
When I see my oldest son reading a bedtime story to my youngest son, it brings a smile to my face. Because I know that when my son finally becomes a father himself, he is going to continue to do the bedtime ritual of storytime with his own children.