So it seems that me yakking is more important than I would have thought. Fred sent me a fascinating article from The New York Times which argues that a significant factor behind there being a strong link between higher socioeconomic group and the ability to communicate, learn and understand is quite simply the amount you speak to your child.
“A poor child is likely to hear millions fewer words at home than a child from a professional family.”, Tina Rosenberg states.
This is important because a study by Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley at the University of Kansas in 1995, that recorded an hour’s interaction from 42 families and then 9 years later checked in on the child’s performance, found:
“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 didn’t help, it was detrimental.”
There are various initiatives being trialled to learn from these findings and try and increase parent-child interaction in lower socioeconomic groups with promising results.
The key for me is remembering the importance of chatter once the alien touches down. I imagine even with a baby it is way too easy to get involved with the TV or iPhone or feel self-conscious about a rather one-sided conversation and hence stay quiet. So I’ll have to remember to make an effort, and try and make those one-sided chats involve a vocabulary that is perhaps more extensive than that used currently for my philosophical discussions with the cat.
The trouble is I think it’s probably harder than it seems.