By Dana Suskind, M.D.
Thirty Million Words: Building a Child’s Brain is a labor of love and the basis for the Thirty Million Words Initiative, founded by cochlear implant surgeon and author Dana Suskind. In following her young patients after surgery, Suskind discovered that the more these infants and children were exposed to words (primarily from their parents or caregivers), the more quickly they developed language after their surgery. She learned of a 1995 study by researchers Betty Hart and Todd Risley, which found that the children who heard thirty million words between birth and their fourth birthdays, were better prepared for school and by third grade had bigger vocabularies, were stronger readers and got higher test scores. The fewer words a child heard, the lower the child’s cognitive and academic performance. Hart and Risley called this the “thirty million word gap.” Much of the difference in exposure to language fell along socioeconomic lines highlighting the need to find ways to counter the long-term effects of economic disparity.
Suskind set out to find a way to bridge this achievement gap, by establishing the Thirty Million Word Initiative to teach parents the kind of communications that enables a child to reach their optimal neural development. The program breaks down interactions into the three Ts: Tune in to what your child is doing; Talk more to your child using lots of descriptive words; and Take turns with your child as you engage in conversation.
Thirty Million Words tells the story of Suskind’s mission to give every child a chance to thrive and to give their parents the tools to make a startling difference. She offers hope and empowerment for parents by helping them create an environment rich in the ingredients their child needs to reach his or her true potential.
Reviewed by Staff