In June 2015, community partners in London, ON, had the pleasure to learn from Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, PhD at our community's annual Family Literacy Conference for Professionals. With the buzz in our city about the 2000 Words to Grow campaign, the audience was thrilled to enrich their knowledge and understing of the true value of using back-and-forth conversations to help our children to learn, grow and reach their full potential.
In this piece written for The Huffington Post, Dr. Hirsh-Pasek asks us to think about the role that technology plays in our lives and how it impacts face-to-face contact, interaction and conversations in our world. What can we do as parents and key influencers of young children to make conversations a priority throughout each day?
The regional rail station was the first stop on my 2-hour journey to Washington where I would deliver a talk on the art of conversation. Twelve people sat spaced on various benches, wrapped in warm winter garb that would shield them from the impending 2 feet of snow due to visit the Northeastern corridor of the U.S.. My rail station sits behind a little shopping village in a small town outside of Philadelphia --in a town that considers itself a tight knit neighborhood. But in this place on this day, 8 of the 12 present were fairly aloof -- looking down at their phones, engaging in no eye contact with one another, with no words to fill the silence. No one even kvetched about the weather.
I gave the speech I was about to deliver the somewhat provocative title, "Talk Back" to demonstrate, in a punnish kind of way, that talking back and forth is a basic human trait that is critical if we are to help children develop a strong foundation for literacy and formal schooling. Language is central to our narrowing the 30-million word gap between middle and low-income children, is important for early reading success and is a cornerstone for high quality preschool interactions. Science tells us that having conversations with children will help them build rich vocabularies that are nested in meaningful narratives. Our challenge is to nurture more conversations in our homes and schools as we build foundational language skills.