THE BLOG
12/10/2013 06:28 pm ET Updated Feb 09, 2014

A Million Dollar Opportunity for Mothers

Brains are strengthened in the first three years of life. Those first three years give us a golden opportunity to strengthen the brain of each child.

The children whose brains are strengthened by having their mother or other people read to them and talk to them every day from birth on are far less likely to drop out of school.

Those children who get those brain-strengthening experiences in those first three years are also significantly less likely to go to jail.

The children who are read to and spoken to consistently and directly by adults actually end up with physically bigger brains. New brain scans show the difference between the brain sizes for the children who have their brains stimulated, and the brain sizes for those who don't get those levels of early brain growth support. Just like a muscle, the brain grows when it is exercised.

The best time to do that exercise is right after the baby is born and then keep doing it through the first years of life for each baby. Kindergarten is too late for most children. The biology of human beings is set up for best brain strengthening benefits well before the kindergarten years for each child.

The first three years are key.

We can now predict with a high level of accuracy by age three which children will be able to read. Reading is extremely important. We now know that 85 percent of the children in the juvenile justice system and 70 percent of the people who are actually in our prisons either read poorly or can't read at all.

We have three times more people in jail than any other western country. Other countries are astounded by the number of people we imprison. Who is in jail? Our jails are full of people who have dropped out of school -- people who read badly or who can't read at all. We can predict with good consistency by age three who will end up in that learning deficit status for their entire life.

The first three years of life are both critical and golden for the brain strength development of each child.

We need everyone in this country to know that is true. People need to know about those golden years. Today, that infrastructure isn't well known. Most mothers and most families do not know how important those first three years are for each child. We need everyone to know that those realities exist -- and we need to figure out what we can do to help each child in those golden years for exercising their brains.

Mothers and families who help their children at that point can actually give a million dollar gift to their child.

Reading half an hour a day and talking a lot to each child every day is literally worth a million dollars to each child -- because a million dollars is the difference between the average lifetime income of a dropout and the average income of a person who finishes high school. The higher income level is the average income for all of the people who do not drop out of school. The difference is a million dollars per child.

Dropping out is far more expensive than most people know.

We need all families to know that they can increase the average lifetime income of their children with just half an hour a day of reading time and with frequent and constant talking that is directed to each child. We need all mothers to know that they can give their child a million dollar gift.

The brain science is amazing. Go to YouTube and watch Dr. Patricia Kuhl's amazing research on the early development of each child's brain.

Then -- when you know that opportunity to help each child exists -- help the children in your life to build strong brains. Read, talk, play, and even sing to your child, and they will have stronger brains and more ability to learn.

We have a very high number of school dropouts in this country. We actually have the highest number of people in jail of any country in the world -- triple the number in other western countries.

We can do better than that.

Let's make sure the brains of all of our children are strengthened in those magical and golden first years of life.

We can do it. We need to figure out ways of getting that done.

Let's have America become the country where all the kids are above average.