The founder and director of the Thirty Million Words Initiative, Professor Dana Suskind, explains why the most important—and astoundingly simple—thing you can do for your child’s future success in life is to to talk to them.
What nurtures the brain to optimum intelligence and stability?
It is a secret hiding in plain sight: the most important thing we can do for our children is to have conversations with them. The way you talk with your growing child literally builds his or her brain. Parent talk can drastically improve school readiness and lifelong learning in everything from math to art. Indeed, parent–child talk is a fundamental, critical factor in building grit, self-control, leadership skills, and generosity. It is crucial to making the most in life of the luck you have with your genes.
This landmark account of a new scientific perspective describes what works and what doesn't (baby talk is fine; relentless correction isn't). Discover how to create the best "language environments" for children by following the simple structure of the Three Ts: Tune In; Talk More; Take Turns. Dr. Suskind and her colleagues around the country have worked with thousands of families; now their insights and successful, measured approaches are available to all.
This is the first book to reveal how and why the first step in nurturing successful lives is talking to children in ways that build their brains. Your family—and our nation—need to know.
*Nominated for the Books for a Better Life Award*
About the Author
Professor Dana Suskind, MD, is both founder and director of the Thirty Million Words Initiative, which is based on scientific research that demonstrates the critical importance of early language exposure on the developing child. Dr. Suskind received the University of Chicago Medical Faculty Award as “Distinguished Leader in Program Innovation.” She is an advisor on The Clinton Foundation’s Too Small to Fail Initiative and part of the White House initiative on creating a pathway to ending the achievement gap. She lives in Chicago, Illinois.
Beth Suskind is codirector of the Thirty Million Words Initiative and is integral to translating the complexities of the science behind their research into a curriculum. She lives in Chicago, Illinois.
Leslie Lewinter-Suskind, BS, MSS, MFA, former Director of International Program, Psychiatry and Pediatrics, LSU Medical School in New Orleans, provided invaluable assistance in the writing of Thirty Million Words. She lives in southern California.
Praise for Thirty Million Words
“[Suskind has] written a book that gives parents the tools they need to maximize their children’s potential, one word at a time.”—Pregnancy and Newborn
“Parents, other caregivers, and early childhood educators will be moved and inspired by this work.”—Library Journal, starred review
“Suskind's vision is empowering, her methods are surprisingly simple to execute, and the results have been proven to nurture children toward becoming stable, empathetic adults. Informative, exciting new data that confirms the significant benefits gained by talking to your child.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Dr. Dana Suskind has written a passionate, engaging and informed account of the importance of early exposure to language in child development. It is a valuable 'call to words' for parents, educators, and anyone invested in the success and well-being of children.”—James Heckman, University of Chicago, Nobel Laureate
“Dr. Dana Suskind is a one-person change agent. In this beautifully written book, she infuses the wisdom of a physician with the heart of a mother. Parents, policy makers and educators, this book is for you. It is informative, compassionate and a call to action designed to enrich our greatest natural resource, our children.”—Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Temple University, author of Einstein Never Used Flashcards
Can a surgeon help solve poverty and improve equality of opportunity? Dr. Dana Suskind has a simple but effective strategy: more talking, with more complex words directed at children from zero to three mainly by parents. Her lucid book will persude you that talk and more talk directed at the developing brains of infants and toddlers can drastically improve our country. Read it and try it.”—Ezekiel Emanuel, author of Healthcare, Guaranteed
“Dr. Suskind weaves science and her journey from surgeon to champion for children showing the profound power of words spoken to infants. Anyone who cares about children will benefit from learning how much language shapes our very existence from the earliest age.”—Patricia K. Kuhl, University of Washington, co-author of The Scientist in the Crib
“Thirty Million Words tells the story of a remarkable woman’s unrelenting mission to give every child the chance to thrive. Dana Suskind’s work as a pediatric surgeon with the deaf helped her to understand the amazing power that words have on a child’s development. She offers a simple but profound understanding of how language affects the brain and provides insights into how to create a rich language environment so your child can soar. Every page overflows with warmth and intelligence—share it and become part of something amazing.”—Steven D. Levitt, University of Chicago, coauthor of Freakonomics
“This is a page-turner tale of birth and transformation—the birth of a medical miracle and the transformation of a compassionate surgeon. Dr. Suskind recounts her journey with humor and humility. Her remarkably intimate voice opens up a fresh path alongside those of physician writers Oliver Sacks, Atul Gawande, and Paul Farmer. It will enthrall any reader who is exhilarated by human possibility and inspire the next generation of physicians.”—Dr. Joshua Sparrow, Harvard Medical School, Children’s Hospital Boston
“How empowering, the realization that each of us can be our children's personal neuro-developer, that the sheer quality of our interactions can impact the attitude of inquiry and health of our kids. The practical application of Dr. Suskind's work is limitless; as a dad, and as (a “gritty”) someone invested in early child development, I’m excited to see how far it takes us.”—Steve Nash, President, the Steve Nash Foundation and two-time National Basketball Association MVP
“As a pediatrician, I want everyone to read this wonderful book--to understand how health and learning fit seamlessly together as young children develop, and to appreciate the neurological wonder and the social urgency of using language and love to nourish the brains of babies and children everywhere.”—Perri Klass, author of Quirky Kids and National Medical Director of Reach Out and Read
“I thank Dana Suskind for opening doors to solutions and hope. The answer to the growing problem of social inequalities in our country is to make use of America’s top two resources: its children and their parents. If we care about this country, and the children who will live in it as adults, we have to make Dr. Suskind’s advice become reality.”—Sandra Gutierrez, Founder and National Director of Abriendo Puertas / Opening Doors
“Grounded upon experience as a cochlear implant surgeon, informed by compelling social science research, and inspired by a profound commitment to children and families, this book helps all of us understand the importance of communicating abundantly, pleasantly, and responsively with infants and toddlers. Tell everyone you know to read it! Together, we can enrich language environments for generations to come, in all types of homes and communities. The book is a gem!”—Ronald F. Ferguson, Faculty Director, the Achievement Gap Initiative, Harvard University
“Straight from the front lines Dr. Dana Suskind tells the story of the power of talk in helping children learn. Easy to read and with striking insights on every page, this book will not only make you think differently about how you parent, but will give you the tools to help your child be at his or her best.”—Sian Beilock, University of Chicago, author of Choke and How the Body Knows its Mind
“Suskind writes with clarity and authority to explain why parents need to talk to their infant children, and why some forms of communication are better than others. Thirty Million Words belongs on the shortlist of books that every parent, teacher, and education policymaker should read.”—Adam Alter, New York University, author of Drunk Tank Pink
“Anyone who cares about children, anyone who cares about the future of this country, should read this book.”—Barbara Bowman, Irving B. Harris Professor, Erikson Institute
“A passionate, personal account of the power all parents have to raise thriving, successful children.”—Diana Mendley Rauner, President, Ounce of Prevention Fund
“Prepare for a revolution. This book will make you cry, laugh, and deeply reflect on what we should be doing to give everyone a chance to succeed in life. As a scholar I was in awe, as a teacher I was dazzled, and as a father I was thankful to the authors of this book. When you pick it up, have a few hours to spare because you will not put it down. Unequivocal 5 star.”—John A. List, University of Chicago, author of The Why Axis
“Dana Suskind hails others as heroes but she is the true hero! She stepped out of the safe harbor of her role as a pediatric cochlear implant surgeon when she realized that helping deaf children hear was not enough to help them learn language. She takes us on her compelling and page-turning journey, navigating the best research on children’s early learning, always sharing sound and extremely helpful examples of what we all must do to help children learn language and much more, always in joyful and loving ways.”—Ellen Galinsky, President, Families and Work Institute, author of Mind in the Making
“Dr. Suskind’s work reveals that the greatest gift we can give our children is free. How empowering to understand that it doesn’t take money to give our children advantages in the world, it takes words. Her research is vital, and it is our responsibility to make sure Suskind’s message reaches the masses.”—Chris Nee, Creator and Executive Producer, Doc McStuffins
“Dr. Suskind’s work is empowering—illuminating that every parent already has what it takes to give their child the best start in life: their words. This account tells the amazing impact of language development on the young child’s developing brain, and provides valuable insight on how we, as parents, educators, and caregivers can create a profound difference in our children’s lives through the simple act of talking with them. Chicago Children’s Museum has long created rich environments that naturally inspire talk—and we are thrilled that Dr. Suskind’s research provides new evidence of the deep importance and positive effects of these early interactions.”—Jennifer Farrington, President and CEO of Chicago Children’s Museum and Board President of the Association of Children’s Museums
“Three cheers for the promise of parents, prevention and neuroplasticity!”—Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, Harvard Medical School
“Captivating! Great examples and an easy read but full of scientific information. Can we make this required reading for couples prior to conception?”—Roberta Golinkoff, University of Delaware, author of How Babies Talk