Build Your Child’s Brain

It turns out that the best way that parents can support their child’s brain development is both free and easy. Talk. That’s right. Children whose parents talk to them from the time they are born have a better start in school and in life.

Yesterday, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on behalf of the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation (, visited a Tulsa Educare Center to help roll out a community-wide campaign — “Talking is Teaching.” The initiative will use librarians, faith-based leaders, business-owners, pediatricians and others to raise awareness of the importance of talking, singing, reading and engaging in social interaction with children ages 0 to 5.

As Clinton said, “Tulsa can be ground zero about how this [initiative] will work.”

“Talking is Teaching” is one aspect of Too Small to Fail, a joint partnership of the Clinton Foundation and Next Generation (

Research done by Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley at the University of Kansas and published in the book, “Meaningful Differences in Everyday Experience of Young American Children,” showed that by age 3, a child living in poverty would have heard 30 million fewer words at home than a child living in a professional family. The researchers found that this “word gap” impacted the child’s IQ and the ability to do well in school.

The Talking is Teaching campaign will put the message that talking to children builds better brains in front of parents wherever they are – at the grocery store, the doctor’s office or the fast food restaurant. Organizers hope that talking to infants and young children will become a routine part of every parent’s day.

“When you talk, sing and read, you are building brain capacity,” Clinton said. “Truly, parents and grandparents are a child’s first teacher. Not every child can be in a high quality preschool program, but everyone can be a part of the ‘Talking is Teaching’ initiative.”

And if you think putting your toddler in front of a TV or another electronic device will work just as well, think again. It’s the human interaction of talking, singing and reading that builds better brains, not the screens. In fact, screens can be detrimental to young children.

“Talking is Teaching” will be rolled out in Tulsa because Tulsa is a national leader in early childhood education, thanks to the support of the George Kaiser Family Foundation, CAP Tulsa and Tulsa Educare. Once the initiative is underway, organizers can see what works best and then use the model in other cities across the nation.

So, that silly babbling you’re doing with your 1-month-old baby, keep it up. Don’t let anyone chide you for narrating your life to your baby — I’m going to the refrigerator. I think I’ll get some eggs. Let’s make a cake. Look, I’ll use the blue mixing bowl…. — your child’s brain development depends on it.

A PDF of tips for parents is available at

Categories: Editor’s Blog