We now know that the first three years of life are the years when the brains of children build their internal connections and become strong.
Children whose brains get exercise in the first three years of life have bigger brains -- and those children are more likely to stay in school, avoid challenging health situations, and literally stay out of jail.
The first three years of life have a huge impact on whether children will be able to read once they get into kindergarten and grade school.
The children with low reading skills are 40 percent more likely to have teen pregnancies, 60 percent more likely to drop out school, and over 70 percent more likely to go to jail.
More than 70 percent of the people who are in jail in this country today either read badly or they can't read at all.
The children who drop out of school have average lifetime incomes that are almost a million dollars lower than the average incomes of the children who graduate from school.
Those first three years are golden years for brain strengthening and brain development. The children who have the right level of brain exercise in those high-impact years are much more likely to have a life trajectory that creates success for each child.
What levels of exercise can strengthen brains for our very young children?
Three things can make a huge difference.
They are very basic.
You can exercise the brain of a baby by talking to the baby. You can exercise the brain of a baby by reading to the baby. And you can exercise the brain of a baby by singing to the baby and interacting with the baby.
Interaction is the key. Direct interaction between adults and babies can make each baby's brain stronger.
Read, talk, sing.
That can be a million dollar gift for a child.
Thirty minutes a day of reading can determine whether or not a child can read or not read -- and that interaction can determine whether a child will stay in school or not stay in school.
Reading is a great thing to do.
Talking to each child makes the child's brain very strong as well.
Simply watching television does not strengthen any child's brain.
Unfortunately, television can entertain -- but it does not make the brain grow.
Those first three years are truly golden years. We need every mother and every father and every family in America to know how crucial these years are, and we need everyone to know what can be done to make those first years really good and strengthening for each child.
If you want to learn about the science of early brain development, go to the Aspen Institute talk by Dr. Patricia Kuhl for more information. It will be time well spent to watch that video.
Then share this information with anyone you know who has a baby or a small child.
That sharing may be the best gift you will ever give anyone in your entire life.
Let's make it a collective New Year's resolution for the entire country that by the end of this year, every new Mom and every new Dad in America knows how important those first years are for their baby and every Mom and Dad knows what can be done in those years to help their new child for their entire life.
Happy New Year. Let's make a difference.