How Many Words Have They Heard?

I've been spoiled by Mark O's normal laid back disposition. Up until now, he's been super chill, rarely cried, and was happy to sleep anywhere....through meetings or dinner or while I took a shower.

This week, not so much.

He's getting a tooth slash having a growth spurt slash unaccustomed to the 80 degree weather. He wants to be held a lot and nursed a lot and resists my efforts to put him safely into his crib, lying on his back, as I am repeatedly instructed to do by all medical personnel we come into contact with. When I try to lay him in his crib he wakes up with a horrified and confused look. He likes to sleep on his side, laying over my arm. That way he can suck and drool and spit up on me. Or he likes to sleep on my chest, especially in the early pre-dawn hours. Then Laurel crawls into bed and snuggles up next to me, so that when M wakes up and looks over, he sees me snoring under a pile of children.

I feel a little bad writing this, but Laurel is more interesting than Mark O right now, and I spend a lot more time thinking about what we should do, where we should go, what to feed her, what she's thinking about, etc. Thus there are lots more posts about her than him. He basically just comes along for the ride in the Moby wrap!

But I don't want to forget his toothless grin, or the way he fusses to get us to babble at him. He likes to play with his pacifier, spitting it out and then sucking it back in. He hates a wet diaper. He's pretty bald - just a little peach fuzz on his head. He smiles at us and turns his head when he hears our voices. I read to him most nights, usually a book that Laurel picks out. It's fun to revisit all those baby board books, especially since Laurel has been listening to chapter books for the last couple of months. It blows my mind that a year from now he'll be running around.

This article from the New York Times brings up what researchers have known for a while, that talking to your baby from birth has incredibly profound effects on their future learning. Once a week, I read to a 7 year old at a local elementary school as part of the Everybody Wins program with RIF Pittsburgh. He's pretty awesome and getting to simply read with a child (as opposed to doing more intensive intervention work or common core standards stuff, etc.) on my lunch break helps me to stay grounded in my work.

However, I am reminded every week of the language differences that Hart and Risley describe from their study of poor, working class and middle class families. They call it the 30 million word gap. Basically, the poorer you are, the fewer words your children are likely to hear from you. When I compare my 3 1/2 year old daughter to my almost 8 year old reading buddy, the differences are astonishing. We are a chatty family (taking turns in a conversation is probably one of our biggest challenges), but I'm not sure it's just a matter of Laurel having heard a lot of words. I think there's something about the dialogue patterns of our household that have encouraged Laurel to grow her own vocabulary. She has opportunities to use words, not just hear them.

It's a case N of 1 so far. But I'm really looking forward to seeing how Mark O's language develops.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love Marc Olivier's facial expressions. And I love the idea of volunteering to read to a child in school -- a great retirement project for me.

I thank my grandfather for sitting me on his lap and reading the Post Gazette comics to me every morning -- until one day the words made sense. He also gave me sips of his coffee... and later his beer and whiskey. Aunt Mary