Letters to the Editor

Parental conversations with infants vital to learning

Education has been in the Manatee news recently, particularly related to low test scores at the third-grade level, with 29 percent of the district's third-graders flagged for retention.

A recent Herald editorial noted that "third grade is a key barometer for gauging future success." There is general agreement that pre-kindergarten programs are effective in improving student progress when they start grade school.

So far I have seen little discussion locally regarding learning in the first three years of a child's life. It is in those first years that we also need to improve our educational process.

Studies have shown that children who have been exposed to "30 million words" by the time they are 3 years old are more likely to read at grade level in third grade, which also makes them more likely to graduate from high school.

The key concept here is that "Parents are Teachers."

The most important contribution to a child's learning is the conversations between parent and child in the first three years of life. This starts at birth.

However, just hearing words is not enough. A child learns most when engaged in the use of words, i.e. conversation.

"The most important thing we can do is get the message out there ... to parents, siblings, grandparents and everyone else, to talk to their kids from the day they are born ... talk to them about the news and the grass and the rain and the lunch. Ask them questions and let them ask you questions." (thirtymillionwords.org/)

I would add one point: Put down your electronic devices and talk to the kids! Talk to them in the grocery store, when you are preparing meals, when you are in the car. Just talk to them!

Sharon Reuter