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Thirty Million Words: Building a Child's Brain Hardcover – September 8, 2015

4.6 out of 5 stars 48 customer reviews

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"Your Kid's a Brat and It's All Your Fault"
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Editorial Reviews


“[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

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.     

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton (September 8, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0525954872
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525954873
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,430 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As an obstetrician, it has always struck me that while expecting parents spend an inordinate amount of time “preparing” for birth, they spend relatively little time once the baby has arrived learning how they can help their child achieve his or her full potential. So for every parent who has a dog eared copy of What to Expect” I say, forget “What to Expect” (It never goes as planned anyway) and instead focus on “What to do” once the baby arrives. And there is no more important book than Dr. Suskind’s book which is a true “how to” have a child that can reach his or her full potential. Not only is this book brilliant, but also it is simply fascinating to read. The style is academic yet approachable, deep yet conversational, and there is an “Ah ha” moment on virtually every page. This is a book that every parent, every grandparent, every childcare provider, every pediatrician, every educator and yes, every obstetrician should read.
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Format: Hardcover
I'll cut right to the chase - this book would be perfect for someone who is just starting to learn about the various topics I'll mention in a moment. For those who have been keeping up with these topics, nothing new will be found in this book. The topics I'm referring to are:

- attachment theory (John Bolby)
- neuroplasticity
- self restraint/impulse control
- importance of eliminating/limiting "screen time" for babies under 2 & young children
- the significance of language as it applies to brain development and successful learning of all other concepts (math, science, etc)

Like I said, I have nothing bad to say about this book. It's a great overview of several very important topics and the information would surely be invaluable for anyone who is not already familiar. On the other hand, if you're already in the habit of reading other popular non-fiction relating to brain development, parenting, learning and general sociology...you will find this book entirely redundant. And I do mean ENTIRELY. The research/science that is referenced in this book is the same referenced by most of the other popular books in the genre. For example: the marshmallow test, studies on praising effort vs. inherent intelligence, stress hormone prevalence as it relates to attachment theory, etc etc.

I got this book because I thought perhaps there was a possibility that I wasn't talking to my baby enough or not in the right way. I wanted to see if this book compelled me to ramp it up or modify the way I communicated with my toddler. But what this book actually did was reassure me that I'm already zoned in on these important concepts and doing things pretty consistently in the way that's recommened.
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Format: Hardcover
For every parent, teacher, caregiver, pediatrician, and anyone invested in a child's success, this is an eye-opening and informative book that will change the way you interact, treat, and teach your child.

It is a game-changer that explores the importance of language on brain development. The author, a pediatric surgeon who implants cochlear implants in babies born deaf, saw that some of her young patients were behind in their cognitive abilities by age 4, even after they gained the ability to hear, and made it her mission to find out why. She learned about the brain's neuroplasticity -- the remarkable flexibility to change in response to different environments and the ease with which we learn -- and the groundbreaking work of Hart and Risley, the social scientists who discovered the 30 million word gap. She created a science-based program called the Thirty Million Word initiative that outlines simple and effective strategies to create the kind of rich language environment that will allow your child not only how to develop a good vocabulary and communication skills, but help with self-regulation, math and spatial ability, and even empathy. I cannot recommend this book more highly.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As a speech/language pathologist I was immediately intrigued by this book. It's wonderful to see other professions coming to the same conclusion about the importance of language. Suskind writes with such fascination about the people involved and the subject matter, that it's easy to breeze through this book. A true delight to read. We often think of education in terms of teaching reading, writing, and math but here Suskind gets to the heart of the matter - that strong language skills are truly a secret key to succeeding academically and in life in general. I find the tips for talking with children very much in line with the type of therapy techniques I have had for years working with 0-3 population. For any expecting parents or educators, please pick this book up!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Thirty Million Words (TMW) should be required reading for every parent. It seems obvious that we need to talk to our children, but TMW helps a parent understand the power of words and how to use the right words in the right way. I love how this book lays out the science, the proof, of why this program works and then goes on to give real practical examples of how to talk with even the youngest child to build them to their highest potential. Since I began reading this book, I have made a conscious effort to talk more with my son, my first child, and to utilize every moment with him without technology getting between us and I can really see how much richer our interactions are. Talking with our children is like feeding them, it is a basic necessity. Most parents attend a breastfeeding and/or childcare class before having a baby, learning about how to build your child's brain is no less important, and TMW will help you do it! As a new parent, I really appreciate the confidence I've gained from TMW that I'm equipped with every thing I need to help my child reach his full potential and I know how to go about doing that.
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