This American Life, for the win – re: talking to our kids as much as possible

2 minute read Published:

364: Going Big

All of TAL is always great, moving, funny, and every other positive adjective I could think of (yes, I’m a fanboy)… but the first act in this show is about baby education and it’s importance…

Paul Tough reports on the Harlem Children’s Zone, and its CEO and president, Geoffrey Canada. Among the project’s many facets is Baby College, an 8-week program where young parents and parents-to-be learn how to help their children get the education they need to be successful. Tough’s just-published book about Geoffrey Canada and the Harlem’s Children Zone is called Whatever It Takes. You can see a slideshow of more photographs from the project here. (30 and 12 minutes)

It’s worth listening to, but basically, one of the points I was struck by (@~11min) was that one of the main factors in the difference between successfully bright children and those who aren’t. The difference is that successful children heard more words… in the study cited, the “kids who made it” heard 20 million more words in the first 3 years and thus developed a bigger vocabulary early on, and could more easily handle the other basic building blocks of learning. If those building blocks are missing, they are hard to get later. (@~14min). Also “children of professionals” tended to hear 500,000 words of encouragement and only 80,000 words of discouragement, whereas “children of poverty” typically heard the opposite; 80,000 encouragement and 200,000 words of discouragement. (@~17min)

I’m sure all of us parents are doing great on this front, and in fact some of us have talked about this exact topic… but I was struck by the profundity of the topic and am myself encouraged to talk to poppy more, just doing idle tasks and whatnot. 

“now we are sweeping the floor.  now you are eating something random off the floor.  now we are looking out the window.  now we are listening to NPR.”

Published by in look at this, penelope and thoughts using 319 words.

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