News and Publications

What Do You Get With a Million Words?

Back to Archive
The importance of quality pre-K education must be one of the best known needs in America. Research over recent decades has told us over and over again that if we teach our children well in the early years, their brains will develop well, they will have the capacity to become fully productive members of society, and they will have significantly expanded chances of living robust and healthy lives overall.

Yet it remains the stubborn truth that we still aren’t doing enough to provide that education to many of our children.

I had the opportunity recently to participate in an evening of TEDx talks, sponsored by Goldey Beacom College, where each and every talk focused on early childhood education. From Lucinda Ross to Dawn Alexander to Caroline Jones, Logan Herring, Jill Slader and Timothy Purnell, each speaker taught us about why early education matters. I anticipate the speeches will be widely available at some point soon.

I used my opportunity to talk about the million-word gap, where kids who are read to hear over a million words more than kids who are not read to…entering kindergarten with dramatically better chances at success. Reading helps, I said, with language, concentration, creativity, neural development, empathy and parent-child relationships. Kind of a magic elixir.

But of course, that’s not the whole story. A million words will get you far. But there is much more we need to address. You can see my talk here.

As for how a million words connects to the broader question of early education, my talk is really a call for it – for high quality universal early education for each and every one of our kids. I’m not the first person to call for universal pre-K, and I won’t be the last. It’s something we can achieve, and something we need.

P.S. If you are wondering about the Go Dog Go picture, you’ll have to listen to the talk.