Here is the full text and summary of psychologist Anne Fernald’s talk titled “Why Talking To Little Kids Matters” at TEDxMonterey conference.
Listen to the audio version here:
The science tells us that genes specify potentials, but not outcomes. The realization of outcomes depends on support from the environment at every level. And it’s the support that I love in that picture. The firm hands of the parents holding that newborn, who depends on them for everything. Not just for food, for shelter, for warmth and safety, but also for the linguistic nutrition and the mental exercise that will furnish that child’s mind, build that child’s brain and intelligence.
Babies are born ready to learn, and we hold them in our hands over the first thousand days of their life, for better or for worse. The family is the world of that child.
Now for some children, it is for worse. Here what you see are children living in poverty, that children living in poverty are already behind by two years when they start school. So the blue line shows you advantaged families, higher in socioeconomic status, or SES, and the red line shows lower SES families, whose parents have less education and less income.
And what you see is a two-year gap at the starting gate that grows a little bigger. At best that gap levels off and stays constant. It does not go away. How early do these gaps begin to emerge? Where do they come from? That’s one of the questions that we’re going to be asking and that modern brain science is illuminating.