Why does early talk matter?

Opportunity gaps open early — often before children reach kindergarten. That’s because children experience a period of rapid development during their first few years of life. Between the ages of 0-3, children’s brains develop more than 1 million neural connections every second.

During those early years, experiences shape a child’s development. In particular, the way that adult caregivers respond to a child shapes the child’s brain architecture.

As the Harvard Center on the Developing Child explains it:

“When an infant or young child babbles, gestures, or cries, and an adult responds appropriately with eye contact, words, or a hug, neural connections are built and strengthened in the child’s brain that support the development of communication and social skills. Much like a lively game of tennis, volleyball, or Ping-Pong, this back-and-forth is both fun and capacity-building. When caregivers are sensitive and responsive to a young child’s signals and needs, they provide an environment rich in “serve and return” experiences.”

These serve and return interactions can take many forms. We focus on interactive talk between children and caregivers. Interactive talk — also known as “conversational turns” —  occur when a child and caregiver respond back-and-forth to each other.

Research shows that the amount of language a child experiences is related to:

Additionally, research tells us that a child’s vocabulary at age three predicts language and reading skills at ages 9-10, about the time they’re finishing third grade. In turn, third grade reading scores strongly predict high school graduation.

When taken together, these studies indicate that a person’s early language exposure is a good indicator of their future developmental trajectory.

By teaching caregivers about the importance of interactive talk and equipping them with practical strategies to increase conversations every day, our mission is to close opportunity gaps for good.