America is failing our children. With wise and affordable investments of public and private dollars, we can assure that children do not start school already having been "left behind."

The key to school readiness is language development, fostered in caring relationships through frequent, vocabulary-stretching conversations when children are between one and four years old. How can parents, teachers, citizens, and policy makers ensure that every child begins school with a wealth of words?

  • Talk with babies and young children. Research shows that toddlers who hear and use more words in meaningful conversations develop richer vocabularies and become better readers.
  • Seek out child care programs that provide rich environments for learning and language. Look at the program through your child's eyes. Will she have interesting, interested people to talk with and interesting things to talk about? Look for accredited programs that provide individual attention and playful small group learning.
  • Ensure that child care providers have the training and support they need, and are appropriately compensated for their valuable work. Current near-poverty wages can't sustain an educated workforce.
  • Insist upon public investments and public policies that build a strong foundation for all children. Per child public investments in young children are less than one-fifth of those in schoolagers, and less than one-third of those in college students. In the critical toddler years, when children are learning language, public investments are at their lowest.

We have the tools we need and the evidence that they can succeed. We know how to support parents, to bring our child care programs up to a level of quality that supports robust language development, and to build systems that sustain quality. At a Loss for Words explains how America is failing our children, and what parents, teachers, voters, and policy-makers can do about it. Building Literacy with Love, Poems to Learn to Read By, and Talk to Me, Baby! provide practical language-building strategies for early childhood teachers, parents and grandparents, home visitors, and family support practitioners.

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