Contrary to recent reports, parents "powerfully influence" their children's lives--at least from birth to age 3--by encouraging childhood chatter, researchers with the University of Delaware and Temple University contend.
"Parents do make a difference," says Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, UD's H. Rodney Sharp Professor of Education. "The stimulation parents and other caregivers provide in the first three years sets the stage for effective, productive communication skills that will last a lifetime."
To make their mark, says Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, a professor of psychology at Temple University, "parents must remember that silence is not golden!" Babies are pre-programmed to acquire language, but "baby talk"--the strange, sing-song lingo adults murmur around infants--seems to help foster language learning, says Hirsh-Pasek, a member of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care.
From babbling to bartering, a new book, How Babies Talk: The Magic and Mystery of Language in the First Three Years of Life, guides parents through each stage of language development, "turning parents into explorers, by giving them a sense of wonder about this amazing process," Golinkoff says.
The book so clearly describes children's progress, in fact, that "parents may find themselves saying, `Ah ha! So, that's what my child is doing!'" Hirsh-Pasek says. "In this way, we hope the book will turn mundane, everyday events into magical moments" between caregivers and children.
"We want our readers to benefit from what we've learned about language acquisition because that makes parenting more fun," Golinkoff adds. "Over the past three decades, we've learned so much about how babies talk that a completely different picture of them has emerged. Today's infants don't even seem to resemble the babies Dr. Spock described in the 1950s."