How to strengthen language ability in your children
Exposure to language in your child‘s early years has a potential influence on their brain structure and language ability in later years. In addition to this, years of research has established a relationship between socioeconomic status and children’s brain development. This is potentially explained by the “word gap” — findings from the early 1990s that school-age children who grew up in lower socioeconomic households heard 30 million fewer words than their more affluent classmates. However, the specific reason for this connection between socioeconomic status and brain development in a child is not known, and a recent study found that socioeconomic status did not influence language skills in children.
The researchers found stronger connections between two regions of the brain — critical for comprehension and production of speech — in children who took greater turns during a two-way conversation with their parents.
Researchers from Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Pennsylvania measured real-language exposure of 40 children (27 boys and 13 girls) aged four to six years old. The children’s parents were of diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. The conversation between the children and their parents was recorded for two days. This helped capture the number of different words heard by children, the number of words they used while speaking and the number of turns they took during back-and-forth conversations with their parents.
The researchers found stronger connections between two regions of the brain — Wernicke’s area and Broca’s area, which are critical for comprehension and production of speech — in children who took greater turns during a two-way conversation with their parents. This finding was independent of parental income and education.
The findings of this study debunk the “word gap” theory but the researchers believe that bridging the word gap may be too simple an approach to improve language development in children. Rather, it’s important to consider the quality of words that children are exposed to and not the quantity, as suggested by the findings of this study. Further research is needed in this area, but this early-stage study now provides the direction needed for that.
Talking to your children is not only fun but you are also helping your kids develop and strengthen their language skills, no matter what your income or education level are.
Source: The Journal of Neuroscience
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