At the Atlanta Speech School, there is lot of talking, all day, back and forth. The teachers and the 400 students think of themselves as "conversational partners." Executive Director Comer Yates says they encourage this constant dialogue because they believe language is critical to the learning process.
Yates says, "So, the words we would never even consider using with a child at our school is telling them to be quiet. We'll ask them to be respectful. But, we're not going to shut off their brains by asking them to be quiet."
The school's pro-talk philosophy is part of a national trend to encourage parents to talk to their children, starting when their newborns. Pediatrician and WebMD Medical Editor Dr. Hansa Bhargava says from birth to about age five, a young child's brain is like a sponge. Before babies utter their first word, they're already learning to master language. Dr. Bhargava says, "It's really important to interact with your infant from the day it's born. Because there's really a small window where we can actually impact the child's brain."
The more you can talk to your baby or child, the more you're helping your child learn language, reading and social skills. Dr. Bhargava says don't worry about sounding smart, or saying the right thing. Just talk.
She says, "You don't have to talk about the book that you read. Talk about the bubbles in the bath. Or, in the carpool, talk about what they did during the school day."
By the time kids reach third grade, researchers says those who've had a lot of talking time have 30 million more words than those who haven't. So, they're about two years ahead.
Dr. Bhargava says she knows parents are busier than ever, so the idea of making small talk may sound like one more task on your to-do list. But, she says, you don't have to make a big effort. Just use the time you already have with young child to connect, and be present. She sys, "Don't ask your kids to be quiet. Talk to them about what they want to talk about. Engage with them constantly. From newborns to teenagers. Talking is going to help them."