Talking to kids every day helps them learn

By Ryan McKinnon

Suncoast Campaign for Grade Level Reading reminding parents how they can help their kids at home

The gulf between rich and poor children is not only measured in finances or opportunities; it can be measured in words as well.

Researchers at the University of Kansas discovered that children of poverty typically hear up to 30 million fewer spoken words by age 3. Children who hear more words start school ahead of their peers, simply based on conversations they have heard at home.

To combat this gap, the Suncoast Campaign for Grade Level Reading will launch a new text-messaging service to provide parents with a few tips each week of ways to interact with their children and stimulate brain growth.

The service, named “Every Day Hero,” aims to demystify cognitive development by reminding parents how simple it is to help your child’s brain grow, said Suncoast Campaign director Beth Duda.

Every Day Hero’s tips are targeted toward busy parents who may assume they don’t have the time or expertise to prepare their child for school.

“You’ve only got this much time to feed them dinner and make sure the clothes are clean. It’s hard to layer in the extra time,” Duda said. “The notion is turning those everyday moments you have with your child into the learning moments.”

Duda said the campaign would be sending out a couple tips each week targeted toward specific age groups, and the tips are simple. Snuggle with your child while reading. Show them how a sponge can soak up water. Learn a tongue twister together.

Kathryn Shea, the president and CEO of The Florida Center for Early Childhood, said the first five years of a child’s life is the most critical time to be speaking to them regularly, and what a parent says is not as important as simply saying something.

“All the time you are talking to them those little brain cells are just firing rapidly, helping the brain and the body to grow immensely,” Shea said. “It should be in some sort of context because they are learning context as well, but the most important thing is that you just talk to them.”

Shea encouraged parents not to overcomplicate the process or think only a trained specialist could stimulate a child’s brain growth.

“Some parents really underestimate themselves, or they think, ‘I have to set aside a special time every day where I do this,’ and that’s just really not the case at all,” Shea said. “It’s everyday moments – just make it count and talk to them and look at them.”

The Campaign for Grade Level Reading plans to launch the program by Oct. 1. Interested parents can contact the campaign for more information at info@gradelevelreadingsuncoast.net.