The Thirty Million Words Initiative

If I haven’t said it recently (but I’m fairly sure I have), I absolutely love National Public Radio. I learn so much from NPR that I probably would never know otherwise. Case in point: the Thirty Million Words Initiative.

One of my all time pet peeves is parents who do not read to or communicate with their children. I’ve entered many a house where there are no books to be found, and the TV is tuned to soap operas instead of Sesame Street, and it makes me want to scream, “You are setting your child up for failure!”

Now, finally, vindication. The Thirty Million Words Initiative was started by Dana Suskind, a surgeon who wrote the book Thirty Million Words: Building a Child’s Brain. In an interview with NPR, Suskind said, “The 30 million word gap comes from a very famous study that was done probably about 30 years ago by Betty Hart and Todd Risley, where they followed a group of children between 0 and 3 years old from all socioeconomic backgrounds. And basically what they found, by the end of age 3, children from low-socioeconomic backgrounds will have heard 30 million fewer words than their more affluent peers. And this number itself was correlated not just with differences in vocabulary but also differences in IQ and test scores in the third grade.”

This gap comes from a combination of familial/cultural differences and the stressors of poverty. The words you use with your child have an impact as well. Some children hear as much as 6 times as many positive affirmations as other children do. Being belittled affects your development.

The Thirty Million Words Initiative is a program that encourages parents to tune in, talk more, and take turns with their children. To learn more about this, read the book, visit the website and support it. Set your child up for success.



2 thoughts on “The Thirty Million Words Initiative

  1. lyn sutton

    Perhaps we shouldn’t judge success or failure based on I.Q or socioeconomic status. It falls short of being a positive affirmation and belittles the value of all other forms of wisdom and success. I’m not saying you shouldn’t talk more to your children and I’m sure the study meant well, but it’s focus on the low-socioeconomic parent/child creates a bias against them. Plenty of whom are hard working, nurturing, and happy. Isn’t that success? I’ll take their wisdom over that of an affluent, educated, successful (?) Trump any day. 🙂

    1. Well, if that’s the only guy to measure against, then I would, too. But there’s no doubt at all that the more you read to and talk to your child, the better off he or she will be on a lot of levels. And it’s not unachievable for the lower classes, so that’s good news. I grew up on welfare, but came from a family of voracious readers.

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