Gift of gab: Talkative children perform better academically, study shows

YORK, United Kingdom — We all know that talking during class is a quick way to end up on your teacher’s bad side. However, a surprising study finds the chatty kids actually perform quite well in class. Researchers from the University of York report young children with “enhanced verbal skills” usually go on to achieve greater academic success than their less talkative classmates.

Originally, study authors set out to examine why kids born into wealthier and well-educated families often do better in school. They ended up discovering that children born into an affluent family tend to have strong language skills by the time they reach nursery school age. From there, those elevated abilities lead to higher grades throughout adolescence.

Getting an early start is critical to school performance for children

Researchers examined close to 700 British children in the study. They assessed each child’s verbal skills at the age of four and then tracked their grades through age 16.

All in all, researchers say language skills account for about 50 percent of the effect of family background on a child’s first-year school performance. As more academic years go by, that achievement gap continues to grow.

“Our findings show that a child’s learning at home when they are under five is really important to their chances of later academic success. Children from more advantaged backgrounds are more familiar before starting school with the language patterns and linguistic codes that are used in formal educational settings and are expected by teachers,” says lead study author Professor Sophie von Stumm in a university release.

“Not all children get the same start in life, but this study highlights the importance of helping parents of all backgrounds to engage with their children in activities which enhance verbal skills – such as reading bedtime stories and engaging the child in conversations,” she continues. “Activities designed to improve verbal skills boost cognitive, social and emotional development, in addition to benefitting parent-child bonding.”

Family background plays a major role, too

This is the first major study to investigate how a child’s language skills very early in life influence their grades years down the line.

Besides just verbal skills researchers also analyzed the extent to which non-verbal abilities at nursery school age dictate academic outcomes later on. To a lesser extent, these skills also play a role in the relationship between family background and school success. The team also finds kids born to richer families tend to be more adept at non-verbal activities like puzzles, drawing shapes, and copying actions – all before even starting school.

Those non-verbal skills are estimated to account for about a third of the connection between family status and school performance.

The study is published in Child Development.

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