You are here

Language Nutrition for All

April 10, 2014

Are you talking with your baby?

Just as children require warmth, food, and protection, they also require "language nutrition” to meet their developmental potential. Language-rich adult-child interactions are as critical to a baby’s and young child's brain development as healthy food is to physical growth. And a solid foundation of language nutrition can play a critical role in developing a child’s social and emotional capacity.

The quality and quantity of communication between caregivers and children—beginning at birth—has a direct impact on a child’s language and literacy development. The impact of these adult-child interactions on the developing infant and toddler is unparalleled by any other stage of development. In the first few years of life, babies’ brains are forming the neural connections for language that will shape their capacity to learn.

Early exposure to language has a strong effect on vocabulary development by age 3, which is a key predictor of reading comprehension by the end of third grade. The best predictor of a baby’s later academic accomplishments is the number of words spoken to the baby and the amount of time spent in active engagement and communication.

Unfortunately, millions of underprivileged children and children with congenital liabilities exhibit delays in picking up language, learning, and reading. Those delays can be traced to a disruption in the relationship between infants and their surrounding social environment. Without critical language nutrition, children’s capacity to learn to read by third grade is greatly diminished, which hinders their ability to read to learn in later grades and throughout life.

The good news is that all parents have the potential to be their child's first and best teacher. Studies have found the number of words parents speak to their babies—not the parents’ social class, income, or ethnicity—is what best predicts a child’s academic accomplishments.

Before all babies can receive that vital language nutrition, the adults who interact with infants and toddlers need to transform their thinking and behavior. When parents, caregivers, teachers, and health providers receive training on how to use evidence-based strategies, they gain the knowledge and skills necessary to improve every child’s outcomes.

Talk With Me Baby
Talk With Me Baby, a large-scale public-health initiative already underway in 13 counties in Georgia, has the potential to leverage dramatic results for all children. The initiative is providing language nutrition that will help children reach the milestone of “reading to learn” by the time they leave third grade—including those born into families of generational poverty, have a sensory disability, are English learners, have a genetic predisposition to developmental delays, or have a chronic developmental delay.

This highly collaborative, novel concept sprung from conversations on improving health and education outcomes for children between Georgia Pathway to Language and Literacy Coalition for Children who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing; the Georgia Coalition for English Learners; Get Georgia Reading—the Georgia Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, which launches this spring; Emory University Department of Pediatrics; Emory Nell Hodgson Woodruff Department of Nursing; Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta; Georgia Tech; Marcus Autism Center; Atlanta Speech School; Georgia Department of Education; and the Georgia Department of Public Health.

The goal of Talk With Me Baby is to increase early exposure to language as a strategy to ensure better outcomes for children including higher reading proficiency by the end of third grade.

For more information, contact

This story first appeared on the Georgia Family Connection Partnership's blog

You might like...

August 5, 2015

This week, the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) is observing World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) to raise awareness about the nutritional benefits of breastfeeding and show its support for breastfeeding-friendly work environments.

July 6, 2015

If you’re a parent, you want nothing more than to ensure the health and wellness of your child. However, for parents to the more than 300,000 children in the nation suffering from juvenile arthritis, managing their child’s pain and arthritis symptoms is a daily task.

Each July, the Arthritis Foundation, health leaders and community members nationwide join together to commemorate the families and children living with juvenile arthritis for National Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month.

April 13, 2015

Brayleigh Richard is the topic of a globally read blog, center of attention for a growing number of Facebook followers and even a budding local hero. To top all of Brayleigh’s many accomplishments, she’s 6 months old and surviving a rare birth defect.

Boasting a name that means “ray of hope,” Brayleigh has marked her own path in life, defied the odds and inspired thousands of others along the way.