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Thirty Million Words: Book Summary & Review

Discover the power of language for children's development in Thirty Million Words: a comprehensive book summary and Review.

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 talk to him or her, reveals the recent science behind this truth, and outlines precisely how parents can best put it into practice.

The research on Academic achievement begins on the first day of life with the first word said by a cooing mother just after delivery.

A study by researchers Betty Hart and Todd Risley in 1995 found that some children heard thirty million fewer words by their fourth birthdays than others. The children who heard more words were better prepared when they entered school. 

These same kids, when followed into third grade, had bigger vocabularies, were stronger readers, and got higher test scores. This disparity in learning is referred to as the achievement gap.

Professor Dana Suskind, MD, learned of this thirty million word gap in the course of her work as a cochlear implant surgeon at the University of Chicago Medical School and began a new research program along with her sister-in-law, Beth Suskind, to find the best ways to bridge that gap. 

The Thirty Million Word Initiative has developed programs for parents to show the kind of parent-child communication that enables optimal neural development and has tested the programs in and around Chicago across demographic groups. 

Parents to follow the three Ts: Tune in to what your child is doing; Talk more to your child using lots of descriptive words; and Take turns with your child as you engage in conversation. Parents are shown how to make the words they serve up more enriching. 

For example, instead of telling a child, “Put your shoes on,” one might say instead, “It is time to go out. What do we have to do?” The lab's new five-year longitudinal research program has just received funding so they can further corroborate their results.

The neuroscience of brain plasticity is one of the most valuable and revolutionary medical science being done today. It enables us to think and do better. It is making a difference in the lives of both the old and young. If you care for children, this landmark book is essential reading.

Book: Thirty Million Words: Building a Child's Brain

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 ... Google Books

Thirty Million Words by Dana Suskind

About the Author: Dana Suskind, Ph.D.

Professor of Gynecology and Pediatrics at the University of Chicago, Director of the Pediatric Cochlear Implant Project, and Founder and Director of the "30 Million Words Initiative" at the University of Chicago School of Medicine. 

The reason for this organization is based on scientific research that shows that the number of languages ​​a developing child is exposed to early will have a very different impact on their brain structure and development, which will directly affect children's character-building and differences in learning ability.

She received the "Leader of Outstanding Program Innovation" award from the University of Chicago School of Medicine. 

She is an advisor to the "Too Small to Fail initiative" organized by the Hillary Foundation, one of the initiators of the White House "End Achievement Gap" initiative, and one of the authors of the white paper "Early Language Gaps: Sources And Solutions" in the United States. 

This book is the culmination of her 30 years of scientific research, which has aroused great repercussions in American academic and educational circles.

Book Summary

How to develop children's language skills?

Many parents are concerned about children learning to speak and difficulty at the beginning. 

You must have seen a similar situation: a group of children of the same age is playing together, some children are silent, some children just say a few words, but some children can express themselves cleverly.

We often attribute children's inability to express themselves to introversion, but in fact, it has something to do with whether the parents talked to the child well when he was very young.

How should parents guide children in their early language development?

The book "Thirty Million Words" gives 10 practical suggestions to help improve children's language skills.

It comes from the "30 Million Words Initiative" at the University of Chicago School of Medicine. The author, Dr. Dana Suskind, is the founder and director of the institution. 

She is also a professor of gynecology and pediatrics at the University of Chicago and director of the Pediatric Cochlear Implant Program.

The reason for this organization is based on scientific research that shows that the number of languages ​​a developing child is exposed to early will have a very different impact on their brain structure and development, which will directly affect children's character-building and differences in learning ability.

She received the "Leader of Outstanding Program Innovation" award from the University of Chicago School of Medicine. 

She is an advisor to the "Too Small to Fail initiative" organized by the Hillary Foundation, one of the initiators of the White House "End Achievement Gap" initiative, and one of the authors of the white paper "Early Language Gaps: Sources And Solutions" in the United States. 

This book is the culmination of her 30 years of scientific research, which has aroused great repercussions in American academic and educational circles.

Let's take a look at these 10 suggestions-

30 million vocabularies, starting from speaking

1. Start by giving you three facts about your child's language development.

Fact 1: Before the age of 2, it is normal for children not to talk. Some children are more than 1 year old and cannot speak complete sentences. Parents will be anxious to force their children to speak. But if your baby just can't speak, but can understand what adults say, then you don't need to worry too much. Generally speaking, 1-year-old babies can speak words and can speak complete sentences at 2 years old. Some babies have normal cognitive ability, but they rarely speak at 1 and a half years old, and they will speak more and more at 2 years old. If your baby is 2 years old and still doesn't understand the meaning of some basic words, such as eating and drinking, you need to consult a professional in time.

2. Fact 2: Watching TV and listening to recordings are not very helpful for babies to learn the language. Many parents will play language learning audio to their children during their infancy, thinking that this will make the baby speak faster, but is this true? The experiment found that a group of 9-month-old babies was divided into two groups, one group of babies listened to a real nanny speak Mandarin, and the other group listened to Mandarin played by an audio device. Afterward, the experimenters were asked to read Mandarin to all the babies. Only the babies in the nanny group responded and could recognize that it was a language they had heard before. So it is right for children to listen to their mother tongue more, but it must be a real person.

3. Fact 3: It is normal for children to "talk to themselves". Children ages 2-7 often talk to themselves non-stop when left alone. You don't have to worry, it's normal, it's the child saying what's in his head, which is good for the baby's memory, imagination, and problem-solving. After the age of 7, children are less able to speak aloud but think in their heads like adults.

4. Before the age of 3, parents should have more conversations with their children to ensure enough parent-child communication time. This is because the areas of the brain that control thinking and learning begin to function before the age of 3 and can have an impact on learning later in life. There is a survey experiment that tracked the situation of children in 42 groups of families from 3 months to 3 years old. The results found that: before the age of 3, children who hear their parents talk more and spend more time with their parents and children have more vocabulary. More quantity, better IQ, and learning ability.

5. Parents should try their best to pronounce it accurately. When adults speak, they often simplify words habitually, such as "unknown", or their pronunciation is not standard with an accent. When talking to your child, try to avoid this situation, so that the child can clearly understand the pronunciation of each word, and you can even prolong the sound and slow down the speech speed appropriately.

6. Use more descriptive adjectives. This is a very practical way to help children build up their vocabulary. For example, when a child is playing football, instead of saying "This is a football", it is better to describe the appearance of the ball more comprehensively, "This is a football, black and white, especially round". The more times these words appear, the child will naturally use them.

7. Use fewer pronouns. When we hear words such as "it" and "this" in daily conversations, it is easy to know what they refer to, but it is difficult for children who are just learning to speak, so try to use them as little as possible in daily conversations. For example, if your child draws a picture for you, you might as well praise him like this: "I like your painting" instead of "I like it".

8. Initiate more open-ended questions for children. When talking to children, asking questions can mobilize the vocabulary in the child's brain and think better. At the same time, pay attention to asking more open-ended questions and less closed-ended questions. For example, the answers to questions such as "What is the color of the ball" and "What is this thing called" are very simple and have little effect on the development of language ability. Questions such as "how to do" and "why" can help children use their brains to find phrases and sentences, and improve their thinking and language skills.

9. Have "turn-talking" with your child. Some parents like to give orders to their children and don't care much about their children's thoughts. But in fact, if you want to develop language skills, you must give children the opportunity to fully express themselves. After the child can express the complete meaning, you can take the initiative to initiate a conversation after eating every day, talk about what you did one day and what interesting things you saw, and then encourage the child to talk about it.

10. When your child talks to you, give him an adequate response. Some parents may not care much about their children, or reply perfunctorily, "Got it, okay." This will actually greatly discourage children's enthusiasm for speaking. The correct way is that when your child is talking, you should always pay attention to him and affirm in time; if the child is not speaking smoothly, you should not turn your eyes away, but wait patiently, nod your head, and encourage him, so that he can feel your expectation.

Book Review

When a group of children of the same age are together, parents will easily see the gap between them, and it is inevitable to compare them.

For example, they are all three-year-old children, and their family conditions are similar. Why are some children able to express themselves clearly, while others stutter?

Obviously, in the first and second grades, several children in the same class had the same grades, so why did they widen the gap in the third grade?

Why do some children have strong self-control and can concentrate on doing one thing, while others have difficulty in self-control and poor concentration?

In fact, the answer is hidden in the language of the parents!

According to the book "Thirty Million Words", before the age of 4, the accumulated vocabulary gap between children from different families reaches 32 million! These gaps will greatly affect the performance of children in many aspects such as intelligence, self-management, willpower, and so on.

Author Dana Suskind, MD, of the Department of Gynecology and Pediatrics at the University of Chicago, and her team worked on the Cochlear Implant Program. 

She discovers how the number of languages a developing child is exposed to early on has a profound effect on brain structure and development, and proposes "3Ts" to help parents communicate better with their children.

1. Parents' language shapes children's brains

The author and the team tracked a large number of families for three years and found that the family conditions, race, gender, and birth order of different children are not the key to affecting their intellectual development, but the language of their parents. This gap is huge.

Studies have found that language development is the beginning of brain development, and the vocabulary that parents speak to their children, as well as the way parents speak, are key factors that affect their children's language development.

From birth to the age of three, the human brain is the fastest developing stage in life, and can complete 85% of its development and growth, and the areas that master thinking and learning have already begun to function. 

Early children's learning depends on sight, hearing, touch, and imitation. If parents are taciturn, it will be difficult to raise eloquent children.

Although a three-year-old child cannot speak a rich vocabulary, the more conversations parents have with the child in the early stage, the better his brain development will be, and the higher the IQ will be after the three-year-old test.

  • a. Chat more with children

The words spoken between parents and children can be roughly divided into two types: transactional conversation and small talk.

Transactional conversations such as "It's time to eat," "Put your shoes on," etc., are meant to move forward with daily life. This kind of conversation is often one-way. The parents are the ones who give the instructions, and the children receive the instructions and execute them. The time for communication will be very short.

Other conversations are spontaneous, non-subsistence chatter, such as "This cookie is delicious" and "Who painted this beautiful painting", these words are icing on the cake. 

Parents and children will continue to chat based on this topic, there will be repeated interactions, and children's brain activities will become more complex.

What parents have to do is increase the number of "chats", chat with their children more, and strengthen their children's intellectual development by increasing the complexity of language.

  • b. Speak more positive things

In addition to the number of words affecting brain development, the positivity of language also plays a crucial role.

The research team conducted a survey on children's word reception at the age of 4, as follows:

Just imagine, how would it feel if you kept hearing words like "you're so stupid", "this is wrong", and "you can't do this well and you won't be able to do anything in your life"?

Many parents always educate their children with a mentality of hating iron but not steel, thinking that beating more is good for children and truly loving children.

But this kind of love will limit children's intellectual development, and even form childhood shadows, which need to be overcome in a lifetime.

It is scientifically proven that good boys are boasted. Parents who say more positive words can enhance children's self-confidence and give them more courage to face various obstacles encountered in life.

However, the language of praise is also skillful. Correct praise can stimulate children's potential, while wrong praise will hold children back.

2. The language of parents shapes the thinking mode of children

When a child is faced with a new thing, the parents say "Try it, how will you know if you don't try it?" Some children will try bravely, while others will retreat. of.

growth mindset vs fixed mindset

Studies have shown that when children are before the age of three, they are more likely to form a growth mindset when they receive non-congenital factors such as process and effort in the praise language received by their parents.

If the compliments received by children are talent-based, empty words such as "you are so smart" and "you are awesome", the children will avoid accepting challenges in the future, because they are afraid that if they do not do well in this task, it means that they are "not smart". ", others do better than themselves because of "competing father", because of the influence of the general environment, in short, it is not a problem of "me".

Parents are advised to do "three boast and three no boast".

  • a. "Three exaggerations and three no exaggerations"

First of all, praise the process but not the result.

"Baby eat well, it's awesome!" "You got a perfect score in the test, it's amazing!" It is to guide the children to pay attention to the results.

"Baby took a bowl of rice by himself today, and there was no rice dropped out during the meal, and there were no leftovers in the end, which is awesome!" "You read the questions carefully for this test, and you checked it twice. 

The writing is also very neat, which is amazing !” This is the process of guiding children to pay attention.

Paying attention to the process can make children increase their awareness of rules and learn to correct themselves. As long as the process is done well, there will be good results.

Second, praise hard work but not talent.

When a child does something when he is young, we will naturally say "This child is really smart". But if the word "smart" is said too much, children will form a fixed mindset. 

Intelligence is static for people with a fixed mindset. People with a growth mindset will look for ways to succeed if they are determined to succeed, and intelligence is only one of the factors for them.

Parents can replace the compliments with "You sit and hold the pen well, and you write very seriously, so the writing is really beautiful." "You washed the socks twice this week, so they are cleaner and faster than last week. ".

Praising children's efforts can help them be more patient, tenacious, and hardworking so that they will not give up in the face of failure in the future because they know that as long as they change themselves and try again, they may succeed.

Finally, praise the specific rather than the general.

"You're great!" "You're so good!" "Not bad, that's good." Although praises like this are very positive and can stimulate children's self-confidence, they can sometimes make children lose their way and become overly inflated, forming a so-called "glass heart."

Many parents often say "Knock your nose on your face" and "You will fly into the sky with a few words of praise", which is often the case.

Parents can be more specific when praising, "It's great that the baby knows that toys should be put away when they are used up." "It's so good that the baby can help grandma carry things."

Let the children know where they are doing well, and where they should continue to work hard if they want to get more praise.

The book also recommends a 3T principle communication method, which can help parents help their children better self-control and improve willpower.

  • b. 3T principle to optimize communication
    • Tune in Empathy
    • Talk more Full communication
    • Take turns

Here, the first point of "empathy and attention" is the most important, and it is also the most easily overlooked by parents.

For example, a mother wants to read picture books with a three-year-old child, but the baby is playing with building blocks, so she won't come.

If the mother feels that "I can't afford to spare time to read with the parent and child, but this child knows how to play", it means that she does not follow "empathy and concern", and then there will be no follow-up communication. 

If the mother forcibly pulls the child over to read the picture book, even if the child barely reads for a while, it will destroy her concentration from playing with building blocks just now.

"Empathy and attention" is to pay attention to the child's current needs. When he is playing with building blocks, parents can join in and play together. 

When they are tired, they can ask "Shall we read picture books together?" It doesn't matter if the child doesn't want to read today. Parents teach by example Reading, children will always want to read one day.

Doing anything with your child, including playing, cleaning, peeling apples, taking daily walks, etc., can develop your child's brain.

"Empathy and concern" is to observe, understand, act, and pay attention to children's behaviors and needs behind them, and parents should give warm responses.

"Full communication" is to ask parents to speak more richly, concretely, and vividly.

For example, "This bowl of porridge has just been served, and it is steaming. It is very hot. Can you drink it now? Let's wait a while and blow it on before drinking it?" is better than "The porridge is too hot. Wait a while before drinking it." "Come fully.

The easier it is for children to understand your words, the more they can understand the cause and effect of their behavior, and they can better control their behavior.

"Talking in turn" means that parents and children should communicate with each other in the chat, and guide children to think more and express more, so as to improve their vocabulary level and exercise their ability of deep thinking.

For example, after the parents have finished reading the picture book, they can ask the child to say, "What story do you think will happen next?" "Why did he do that?" "What would you do if it was you?"

When parents chat with their children, try to avoid topics that can be answered in simple ways such as "yes/no" and "good/bad", but use open-ended questions to let children feel emotions, learn to express emotions, and how to deal with things.

There is an old saying, "Three-year-old is old, and a seven-year-old is old", which has a scientific basis.

Intelligence, growth mindset, and willpower are important factors affecting a child's future development, and these have already laid the groundwork before the age of three.

In the past, we thought that the "starting line" of children was the living conditions, so many parents worked hard and lifted their hands vigorously, trying to improve their children's quality of life, but neglected to communicate with them.

In fact, the real "starting line" of children is the language of their parents. Parents who speak more and can speak are the key to shaping their children's learning brains.

Excerpts from the original text

Betty Harder and Todd Risley's groundbreaking research broke traditional thinking. In this study, they found that the language environment of poor families is different from that of rich families. academic difference. Children from poor families receive far less vocabulary than children from richer families. In addition, the quality of words received by children (what kind of words parents say and how they speak to children) is also different. In the end, the two professors came to the conclusion that parents' socioeconomic status does not affect children's academic performance, but the language used by parents in conversation with their children is the most critical influencing factor. That is to say, the quality of the early language environment directly determines the child's future academic performance. ---Quoted from Chapter 1

Professor Dweck believes that as parents and educators, we must form a concept that "effort is the key factor to achieve results, and lack of ability is not the cause of failure, but giving up is" instead of instilling a kind of ability in children. Only the thought of absolute truth.

Professor Dweck says that our pure praise of innate ability such as "you are good at math" or "you were born with math" leads us to fail to achieve our goals. In this way, what we are conveying is the idea that mathematics is a "gift". The transmission of this perspective erases the crucial role of persistence, dedication, and hard work. This means that when you can't do something easily, you're not smart enough to try.

The effort is the only controllable attribution of results. A person's potential may not even be known to him, and whether the whole thing can be completed is attributed to whether it is smart or not, which is too easy to lead to failure. ---Quoted from Chapter 1

Among the 3T principles, "empathic concern" is the most subtle one. It requires parents to consciously observe what their children are paying attention to. When the time is right, parents will talk about it with their children. In other words, you pay attention to what your child pays attention to. Even if the child is too young to understand the words of the adults or the things the child pays attention to are constantly changing, parents should follow this principle and respond to the child's behavior immediately. This is the first step in developing a child's brain through the parent's language. If parents don't follow the Principle of Empathic Concern, the rest of the principles won't work either.

Regarding this point, parents really need to observe their children more and arrange activities centered on children ----Quoted from Chapter 1

The second principle requires parents to communicate more with their children. Communication cannot be just sporadic words. The purpose of communication is to allow children to master the vocabulary of categories and learn how to use them.

Suppose the human brain is a piggy bank. If you're content with just stuffing coins into it, even if it's full, you still can't pay for college, let alone medical school.

In the same way, if parents only focus on stuffing simple words into their children's heads, no matter how much they pretend, they can't be compared with college level

On the contrary, if parents expose their children to a wide range of vocabulary, after a long period of time, the children's language level will reach a new level, which will naturally support them to go to college.

Full communication" and "empathy and concern are good friends hand in hand. The communication between parents and children is two-way, it is not a one-way dialogue dominated by adults. The content of the conversation between the two parties is naturally also the content that the children pay attention to. As far as two-way and one-way are concerned, there are subtle differences between the two. From the standpoint of the "3 Million Words Initiative" team, only when parents and children devote themselves to communication and full communication can it play a role. Like "empathy and concern", two-way communication plays a decisive role in the cultivation of parent-child relationship and children's brain development. ---Quoted from Chapter 1

For self-control, parents can also lead by example and teach their children through their own demonstrations. In life, children imitate their parents in every word and deed. When parents are depressed, they should take appropriate ways to talk to their children about their inner feelings. Use an appropriate tone to talk to your child about the difficulties you are currently encountering and how you have dealt with them. Note, parents should keep in mind that communicating with children does not mean that they are an outlet for their emotions. The original intention of this kind of communication is to teach children to learn to deal with problems in an appropriate and constructive way. Of course, the 3T principles can still be applied here.---Quoted from Chapter 1

Reading Notes

I finished reading it four months ago, but in the past few months, I have been using the method in the book to practice with my two children. 

Dabao boy is four years and one month old, lively and eloquent; Erbao girl is two years and three months old, quiet, and can speak clearly. 

Of course, compared with four months ago, the child's ability to speak and understand has changed significantly. 

If you haven't read this "Parent's Language" and practiced it, the two children may not have changed so much. So this book is still very valuable.

"The Language of Parents" is written by Dana Suskind, professor of gynecology and pediatrics at the University of Chicago, director of the Pediatric Cochlear Implant Program, and founder and co-founder of the 30 Million Words Initiative at the University of Chicago School of Medicine. director. 

The reason for this organization is based on scientific research that shows that the number of languages ​​a developing child is exposed to early will have a very different impact on their brain structure and development, which will directly affect children's character-building and differences in learning ability.

"Parent's Language" is the culmination of her 30 years of scientific research, which has aroused great repercussions in American academic and educational circles. 5,000 academic journals were reprinted, which attracted the attention of the White House.

This book tells the story of the author, Dana Susskind, through 30 years of research, to find out that the language of parents can directly shape the brain of children. That is, the younger the child is, the more the parents interact with the child and stimulate in multiple languages, the better the child's brain will develop.

The book also introduces that the human brain is the only organ that is still plastic after birth, especially before the child is three years old, the brain will develop to about 80% of the mature stage. 

So in the past three years, what can make the brain develop? It is the language of the parents.

The words and deeds of parents are the process of creating super machines for children's brains. 30 million effective vocabularies can shape a more powerful learning brain for children.

So how should parents talk to their children in order to maximize the stimulation of their children's brains?

This is also the most important value of this book: tell parents how to talk to their children, that is, follow the "3T" principle mentioned by the author:

  • Tune in: Tune in Tune in to what your child is doing
  • Talk more: use a lot of descriptive words when discussing with children
  • Take turns: take turns with the child in the conversation

This book is especially suitable for parents with children under the age of three to read. Other parents can also refer to the 3T principles in this book to communicate with their children. 

It also has a great effect on strengthening the parent-child relationship and can also stimulate children's brains to a certain extent.

Whether parents are talking to their children about the smell of diapers, the color of flowers, the shape of cookies, or reading stories, building blocks, and going outside, the 3Ts should be involved. 

This principle of dialogue can have an astoundingly positive impact on children's mathematical concepts, literacy, self-management, executive skills, critical thinking, emotional intelligence, creativity, and perseverance.

Just like the two children in my family four months ago, Dabao could speak sentences, but some words were not very clear, his comprehension ability was not bad, but he could not infer other cases from one instance. 

Erbao can only call out some nouns, and can only say two words in a row, such as father, mother, drink water, eat, go to play, etc.

When I read the book "Parent's Language", I began to follow the author's 3T principles for talking to my children. These 3T principles are simple and easy to operate and can be done at any time.

I educate my children not to interfere with them too much. I used to let them play by themselves. If I need my company, I will play with them. I just teach them how to play according to my own wishes. 

When I was with my children, I also said some simple words, rarely used descriptive words and did not take turns talking with my children. Basically, I said and the children listened.

Now when the child is playing or I am with the child, as long as I am idle, I will observe from the sidelines, observing the child's attention, what he likes to do, what he is interested in, his hands-on ability, initiative, etc. 

Then talk to the child, use as many descriptive words as possible, and use questioning words to guide the child to communicate with me.

Now Dabao speaks more fluently, he can speak words that were not clear before, and he speaks logically, and he can make up stories for me before going to bed at night. 

When I talk about him, he can still give me inferences. For example, when he eats, he eats vegetables and does not eat. 

I tell him to eat vegetables as well as eat, eat a little of everything, and not picky eaters. 

He said to me: Didn't you say that you need to eat more vegetables to be healthy? This child is smarter, and it is also very nerve-wracking. Now he can speak a word or two.

Erbao can speak more than three words now, and she can speak clearly and express her wishes. She will take turns counting with me. When I count to one, she will count to two. With a picture book on the side, if you see someone you know, you will talk. 

This child is quite smart, knowing that I won't take her to buy snacks, so when grandpa comes, let grandpa take it, and don't let me go. Similar things happen often now, and it is also nerve-wracking.

The two children can have such a big change, thanks to the book "Thirty Million Words", the method introduced in the book just applies to my two children. So I am very grateful to the author Dana Suskind for this practical academic work that has been produced through 30 years of research.

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