I just love words. Yes, I am one of those geeks that reads the dictionary. And when I hear a new word, I roll it around in my mouth until I can say it and then look for ways to put it to work. The thesaurus is one of my best friends. I know all the rhetoric about simple, straightforward writing, but I can’t help myself, I love something with a few syllables that absolutely captures the essence of what I am trying to say. The funny thing is, I am useless at scrabble. Ditto crosswords. In fact it gives me quite a complex. How is that I have all those words stored away and I just can’t fit them into the little boxes?
I must say I really bridle when I hear a word used improperly. Around here I sometimes see new team members use a word like “notorious” to mean famous — which it does. But it also implies infamy. So I don’t like to see our clients referred to as notorious unless for some reason they are seeking the cache. Really sets my teeth on edge.
All of this is to say that I was particularly intrigued by a story in the New York Times a couple of weeks ago which revealed some new reseach. Apparently, by the time a poor child is a year old, he or she has likely already fallen behind middle-class children in their ability to talk, understand and learn. Writer Tina Rosenborg reported that cognitive scientists are beginning to think that talking is key to learning. More specifically, it appears that rich children generally hear more words than poor children.
In one study conducted in Providence, RI, researchers found that children whose parents are on welfare heard about 600 words per hour; working-class children heard 1,200 words; by age 3, a poor child has heard 30 milion fewer words than a child in a professional family! The impact was astonishing. The more words a child heard from their parents or caregiver before age three, the higher the IQ. And television didn’t cut it. In fact, it had a negative impact.
So remember that blog a I wrote a few weeks ago about talking? It just got a whole lot more important!