By age four, kids reared in poverty will have heard around 30 million fewer words than their peers from more advantaged families. Such a gap has been related to weaker language skills at the beginning of school, and poorer academic performance later. An interesting news is that the sheer “quantity” of words young children hear is not the most influential factor in their language acquisition, the “quality” of the words is even more determining and back-and-forth communication is key in the development of early language skills.

According to a study from the lab of John Gabrieli, a neuroscientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), “The biggest driver for brain development was not the number of words spoken but the conversations.” In an environment where both kids and adults spend more time on smartphones, tablets, and computers, encouraging face-to-face conversation and paying attention to other people is more necessary than ever.

Parents who are able to follow the eyes of their children and comment about what they are looking at will raise stronger language learners. A huge benefit since early learning abilities is the best predictor of school readiness not only in literacy but also in math and social skills. By far the best foundation for building a bright brain.

Picture: The Two Girls, by Amadeo Modigliani (Wikimedia Commons, w/Effects)