NY Birdcage Liner:
By the time a poor child is 1 year old, she has most likely already fallen behind middle-class children in her ability to talk, understand and learn. The gap between poor children and wealthier ones widens each year, and by high school it has become a chasm. American attempts to close this gap in schools have largely failed, and a consensus is starting to build that these attempts must start long before school — before preschool, perhaps even before birth.
There is no consensus, however, about what form these attempts should take, because there is no consensus about the problem itself. What is it about poverty that limits a child’s ability to learn? Researchers have answered the question in different ways: Is it exposure to lead? Character issues like a lack of self-control or failure to think of future consequences? The effects of high levels of stress hormones? The lack of a culture of reading?
Another idea, however, is creeping into the policy debate: that the key to early learning is talking — specifically, a child’s exposure to language spoken by parents and caretakers from birth to age 3, the more the better.
All parents gave their children directives like “Put away your toy!” or “Don’t eat that!” But interaction was more likely to stop there for parents on welfare, while as a family’s income and educational levels rose, those interactions were more likely to be just the beginning.
The disparity was staggering. Children whose families were on welfare heard about 600 words per hour. Working-class children heard 1,200 words per hour, and children from professional families heard 2,100 words. By age 3, a poor child would have heard 30 million fewer words in his home environment than a child from a professional family. And the disparity mattered: the greater the number of words children heard from their parents or caregivers before they were 3, the higher their IQ and the better they did in school. TV talk not only didn’t help, it was detrimental.
This is one of those studies that looks impressive until you realize that there are some serious flaws with causation and data gathering. What about poor people who talk a lot? What about taciturn rich people? What about rich kids with working-class nannies?
I’m not sure when it started but there is a school of thought that you can turn kids into super-geniuses if you start young enough. I’ve always felt sorry for the kids who are subjected to these ridiculous training regimes.
Of course it’s good for kids to interact with their parents. Talking and reading to them increases their language and vocabulary. Using the television as a babysitter will turn them into
Democrats drooling idiots.
But there is a saturation point where the Law of Diminishing Returns takes over. IMNSHO you can harm your kids by pushing them too hard. Kids need to be kids.
BTW- If you prep your kids for IQ tests it might raise their score but it won’t make them any smarter.