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Early Education Expert To Speak In Pensacola

30 Million Words Initiative

  A leader in the field of early childhood education and development will be speaking in Pensacola this week

"My main goal is really explaining the science of brain development and the fact that the heart of  brain development is the power of 'parent talk'". Dr. Dana Suskind is a Professor of Surgery and the Director of the Pediatric Cochlear Implant Program at the University of Chicago Medicine. She is also the Founder and Director of the 30 Million Words Initiative; and that’s what is bringing her to Pensacola on Wednesday. She said the initiative came from her work with Cochlear Implants and hearing impaired children.

"About 10 years ago I started our implant program at the University of Chicago. An implant...is an amazing piece of technology that allows a child born deaf the ability to hear, to talk and, most importantly, to meld into this world both educationally and socially." After implanting the children, she noticed that there were profound differences in how each one was progressing in their education. "Some of the little babies started learning how to talk and ultimately ... how to read and learn on par with their hearing peers. While others, same time out, would barely be able to communicate. And that difference almost always fell along socio-economic lines. It was a pretty painful difference to watch. And it was that experience that made me ask the question 'why, and what could I do?'."

That led her to a 1995 study by Betty Hart and Todd Risley from the University of Kansas that concluded by the age of three, children born into poverty will have heard 30 million fewer words than those born into higher income brackets. The study showed that the children who heard fewer words did significantly worse as they began their education. "The really started school not ready to learn and had lower IQs and test scores in the third grade. And I came to realize that difference in basically how and how much parents talk to their children have (a profound affect) on how children do academically." 

That led to the 30 Million Words Initiative and the book, 30 Million Words – Building a Child’s Brain which was published last September. Dr. Suskind will be speaking at Washington High School in Pensacola Wednesday afternoon at 3:30. The event is sponsored by the Studer Community Institute and is free and open to the public. You must reserve your seat in advance, and you can find a link to the registration page HERE

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