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Stanford University School of Medicine

Want to boost your child’s language skills? Talk directly to him (or her) from an early age

In a past entry published on Scope, my colleague Holly MacCormick spoke with Anne Fernald, PhD, an associate professor of psychology at Stanford, about her research showing that the amount of time parents spend speaking directly to their toddler can make an significant difference in the child's language proficiency and vocabulary.

To further explore the link between children's language skills and how often their caregivers talk directly to them, Fernald and colleagues launched a parent-education intervention study with low-income Spanish-speaking mothers in East San Jose. A recent Stanford Report story offers more details about the program and researchers' preliminary findings:

This new program, called ¡Habla conmigo! (Talk with Me!), teaches Latina mothers how they can support their infants' early brain development and helps them learn new strategies for engaging verbally with their children. Although they have data from only 32 families so far, the preliminary results are promising. Mothers in the ¡Habla conmigo! program are communicating more and using higher quality language with their 18-month-olds compared to mothers in a control group.

"What's most exciting," said Fernald, "is that by 24 months the children of more engaged moms are developing bigger vocabularies and processing spoken language more efficiently. Our goal is to help parents understand that by starting in infancy, they can play a role in changing their children's life trajectories."

Previously: Talk to her (or him): Study shows adult talk to preemies aids development, Stanford study shows importance of parents talking directly to their toddler and Study shows brain scans could help identify dyslexia in children before they start to read
Photo by Alan Bailey/Shutterstock

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