Jamie Priddy shares:
In my opinion, this chapter emphasizes one of the most challenging parts of our job as school-based speech-language pathologists: In order to make the greatest change in our students, all parents, caregivers, team members, teachers, doctors, essentially all adults in the country, need to understand the problem in order to be part of the solution. In all of our discussions with teachers in the hallway of our schools, parents in ARC meetings and outside service providers through e-mail, we are always striving to teach (“sell” might be a better word) that language is so very important to the development of our students. This chapter was all about getting everyone on the same page to create lasting impact on the language skills of our children, particularly birth through age three.
Suskind explains that while the achievement gap for school age children is impossible to hide from, the birth through three age group is a fairly invisible period. The achievement gap is already noticeable at this young age; however, without analyzing scientific research and data, it is easy to miss. To solve this problem, we must know when the problem begins, as well as what to do about it. The hard part is getting adults to understand the importance of the early language environment before it is too late.
By far, America’s greatest resource is its children. These babies will grow up to be the future citizens who will attempt to make this world productive and established. In order to help them develop into the best versions of themselves, America needs to utilize its second greatest resource—parent talk. Suskind defines parent talk as “the quality and quantity of words in an early language environment”. As SLPs, we know just how powerful parent talk is to our children. We are the ones who clearly understand the problem of a lack of quality interaction between child and caregiver and actively support the solution. But it’s not enough for us to know and work toward the goal on our own. We need society, most importantly parents, to get on board with us to achieve optimal success. Suskind goes on to explain that through the Nudge Theory, we can expand our impact and share our knowledge with those closest to us in hopes that small nudges will create a ripple effect of “spreading the words”. Kudos to us because: THIS IS WHAT WE DO EVERYDAY. Great things can happen when the power of parent talk is shared during natural conversations with teachers, parents, doctors, other professionals. How many times during ARC meetings do we suggest that parents read with their kids, ask them questions, take the time to engage in normal conversation without technology around? The author used the example of James in the chapter. He appears to be a wonderfully involved father who demonstrated that one person really can make a huge difference. He completed the Thirty Million Words program and was so inspired by the impact it had on his son that he wanted to share his knowledge with family and friends. He taught the Three T’s through skype, through conversation and by example. He showed that parents really are the key to change in the youngest population of students.
In summary, this chapter reminds us that children aren’t born smart, they are made smart through engaging with parents and caregivers, and specifically when the parents tune in, talk more, and take turns. By sharing this information with parents of young kids, we can give them the power to change their child’s brain and future.